By John Donne
As I read “The Flea,” lots of thoughts came running through my mind. For example, in this day and age, we do not treat sex the same way as people did at the time this poem was written. Do we think that this sexual behavior is acceptable? Should sex be taken so lightheartedly, or do we take it too seriously? Do we guard sex as if it were the Holy Grail, or the secret to life itself? These questions may be too deep and pointed for most to approach, yet John Donne in his poem “The Flea” wades through them, as if he were in a kiddy pool. In this clever poem Donne uses a flea, blood, and the murder of the flea as an analogy for the oldest most primal exchange: sex. Donne, through symbolic images, not only questions the validity of coveting virginity, but also the importance of sex as it pertains to life.
The metaphors in “The Flea” are plentiful, but the symbols repeated throughout the poem are clear beginning with the most prevalent: the flea. I derive that in this poem the flea is a symbolic act of sex. “Mark but this flea, and mark in this, how little that which deny’st me is” (“The Flea” lines 1-2). The flea is small and inconsequential; his lady denies him sex, which the speaker believes is also petty.
The outward nature of Donne’s poem “The Flea” appears to be a love poem: dedication from a male suitor to his lady, who refuses to yield...
to his lustful desires. A closer look at the poem reveals that this suitor is actually arguing a point to his lady: the loss of innocence does not constitute a loss of honor. The suitor proceeds to persuade the lady to sleep with him.”A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” (line 6), I believe that this line supports my thoughts.
The poet begins his argument by condemning the act of intercourse as a shameful sin. He also belittles it, claiming that if the same effects can be realized within the tiny body of a flea, then the act itself cannot hold tremendous importance. In any case, the act is out of the question in the realm of reality, since the two people in the poem do not appear to be married, so a sexual union can only be committed symbolically.
The argument then shifts to a different position. The flea suddenly becomes the entire world for the two lovers. The act of intercourse now loses its importance, and the loss of all innocence is addressed. Obviously, the poet’s mistress has taken some action between the second and third stanzas. I conclude that the two lovers had intercourse from the sentence, “And in this flea our two bloods mingled be” (line 4). The speaker remarks that in the flea his blood and that of his lady were mixed; therefore, during sex their souls are “mingled” and become one. This is where the flea becomes a “marriage temple” (line 13).
During this part of the poem, he speaks respectfully within the metaphor about sex, notin
that it can be a spiritual and important thing. The description of this sentence “And pampered swells with one blood made of two” (line 8), is suggesting pregnancy. The flea becomes ultimately a symbol of the world in which the lovers’ desires are realized, “and this our marriage bed and marriage temple is” (line 13). Marriage and consummation are a past issue, since within the flea their blood is already mingled and the child of their union grows. The flea is now the realm of marriage, encompassing the lovers and excluding any parents or patriarchal sanction.
The murder of the flea also adds to the overall metaphor. When the blood of the speaker and of his lady is mixed in the flea, the speaker refers to the flea as a marriage; therefore, the exchange of life during sex forms a marriage between the partners. Now that this tie has been established between the blood of the woman and the flea, if the woman were to kill the flea, it would be a form of suicide. I interpret this from