The formalistic approach to an open text allows the reader to devour the poem or story and break down all the characteristics that make it unique. The reader is able to hear the text rather than read it, and can eventually derive a general understanding or gist of the text. "According to the Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature "when all the words, phrases, metaphors, images, and symbols are examined in terms of each other and of the whole, any literary text worth our efforts will display its own internal logic" (Geurin 75)." When utilizing the formalistic approach, the reader must search in and out of the lines for point of view, form, imagery, structure, symbolism, style, texture, and so on. Using the general theme of time, it is important to focus on structure, style, and imagery found in Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress".
Structure, a major tool stressed in this poem, tends to rearrange the text in a large-scale way. In "To His Coy Mistress", the reader should focus on the most significant types of structure: stanza and temporal. In other words, time and chronological order assemble the whole meaning of the text throughout the poem. Although the story contains seduction and intimacy, which is portrayed in the title alone, it is merely a cry for two lovers to be together before time runs out. Temporally, the man first explains to the woman how he would love her if he only had the time. The man's sincerity is truly expressed when Marvell writes, "Had we but world enough, and time...I would love you ten years before the flood...nor would I love at lower rate," (373: 1, 7-8, 20). It seems that the man genuinely cares for the lady, or is he secretly seducing her into bed? Taking a look at the second stanza...
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... is romantic and at ease, but he turns brisk and honest as time disintegrates. This image becomes crystal clear with words and phrases such as, "heart", "beauty", "youthful hue sits on thy skin", "our sweetness", "virginity", "breast", and "pleasures". All of these words provide the reader with an illustration of the man's desires. The use of imagery permits the author to fully describe the necessity of time, and allows the reader to visualize the thoughts and feelings that the characters experience.
The formalistic approach is only one way of dissecting an open text such as the poem "To His Coy Mistress", but it is one of the best ways to search for the overall meaning of a text. With tools such as structure, style, and imagery, the reader becomes personally involved with the characters and savors the story instead of just reading the written words.
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