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What is a good element to compare/contrast in the poems "The Flea" by Donne and...

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shandac | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:37 AM via web

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What is a good element to compare/contrast in the poems "The Flea" by Donne and "Porphyria's Lovers" by Browning?

A most important point relating to poems needs to be included. I think metaphors are the most important element in each because they bring the poems to life, but I'm not sure how someone can create as essay backing just that point.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:57 AM (Answer #1)

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I would look at the comparison, or metaphor, created between sex and violence in "The Flea." First, the flea bites both of them. Their blood is intermixed in the flea and this is the speaker’s rationalization that they should be intimate since their fluids are already together. When she kills the flea, the speaker indicates that this is a murder of three: the flea and the two of them. When the flea dies, the speaker concludes that since he and she have not been diminished in any way, that their love is also undiminished. Therefore, premarital or merely physical intimacy won’t diminish their love or their lives. There is also the indication that this sacrifice of the flea has proven that any intimate act is not sacrilegious. This is all part of the speaker’s rationalization.

In “Porphyria’s Lover,” the speaker strangles Porphyria in order to immortally preserve their love. The speaker in “The Flea” goes through all these rationalizations to convince his lover of his objective. He even uses the violent act of killing the flea as evidence for his position. Similarly, at the end of “Porphyria’s Lover,” the speaker notes that “God has not said a word!” He says that the lack of God's retribution proves his actions are not to be condemned. So, just like the squashed flea, this violence is not to be condemned.

You could go with the metaphor angle. The violence of the flea bites, the flea’s death and Porphyria’s strangulation are all used as evidence of the purity of love. In other words, both speakers use these violent acts to prove and sustain their love. Clearly, they are deluded by their own passions and they will use these metaphors of love to prove the rightness of their love and desire.

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