The Metaphysical Characteristics of The Flea
In the 17th century poem “The Flea” by John Donne, a man who wishes to indulge in premarital sex with his beloved argues the futility of withholding intercourse by using a flea as an example. Throughout the poem, the innocuos nature of intercourse, brought out by the man’s argumentative approach, becomes apparent with the incorporation of two important components of metaphysical poetry. Therefore, metaphysical conceit and wit, the signature elements of metaphysical poetry, bring out the poem’s emphasis on Donne’s approach towards love both by the metaphor created between the fly and sex and the witty nature of the man’s argument in its entirety.
The use of conceit, a theme central to the development of metaphysical poetry, remains at the forefront of the The Flea’s metaphysical characteristics. By generating a direct connection between two highly unlikely objects (such as the flea acting as the temple of the man and woman’s sexual encounter) to illustrate the futility of witholding intercourse, Donne was able to epitomize this realization in light of the flea’s nature. The flea, an insect species with a relatively short lifespan, symbolizes not only the shortness of life when compared to the vastness of time, but also the inherent unity between individuals. Upon extracting the red essence of these two characters and combining them within its body, the flea acted as an allegorical bridge between the intimacies of the man and woman. More than sex intertwined, as virtually their entire lives and futures were consumated upon contact. Moreover, the conceit developed remains a versatile icon in the way by which the reader percieves the flea at each stage of the poem. The actual flea, in essence, takes on the form of a marriage, a sex bed, an point of contention, and lastly, a validation of the man’s argument.
The use of wit reflects yet...