"The Flea" a poem by John Donne, is one young man's struggle to get a girl into bed. He uses a simple flea to sell his argument. The speaker, stanza by stanza, goes from rationalizing, to desperately grasping for a hold to his argument, and then trying to salvage what's left of his argument to get his female companion into bed. He tries every step of the way. As the first stanza of "The Flea" begins, the poem's speaker wastes no time in revealing his driving motivation. Instructing his female companion to take note of a flea that's been lunching on the two of them, the speaker impertinently directs her to "mark in this" (1) flea how trifling and insignificant "
that" (the sex presumably) which she is denying him is. Having witnessed his companion squashing it, he chastises her for the "cruel and sudden" (19) act by which she's "purpled her nail in blood of innocence. By the beginning of the second stanza, Donne's cavalier seems to be losing ground fast, though. The speaker notes that the bug has "sucked" on them both, meaning their "two bloods mingled be" now within the tiny structure of the flea. The young lady and her parents may "grudge" him physical union with her now. The bug represents their "marriage bed and marriage temple" (13) and makes them "more than married" (11) within it. But the two of them are already "met" within the bug, "cloistered in these living walls of jet. She'll even add "sacrilege" to her list of crimes by killing it since the two of them are united in marital union within it. Their commingled blood within it means "this flea is you and I,"(12) he tells her. Swollen now without benefit of clergy with "one blood made of two," (8) the flea represents an intimacy between them even "more than we would do" (9) were she to succumb to his charms. The flea's action and its consequences are natural processes that his chaste companion could hardly judge "sin, shame, or loss of maidenhead," (6) the young man argues. Slaying the unfortunate flea will therefore make his companion guilty of "three sins in killing three," (18) argues the speaker as the stanza ends. " (15) Although his companion might think he deserves to be squashed for his impertinence ("Though use makes you apt to kill me" (16)), she'll commit "self-murder" by dispatching the flea, he reasons. He petitions the uncooperative female not to squash this "one flea spare," (10) as she's apparently preparing to do.
Some topics in this essay:
John Donne, , speaker stanza, female companion,
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