In the poem "The Indifferent," by John Donne, what is the general meaning, or idea, of what is being said?

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lkhernandez eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Donne is relating the poem directly to romantic relationships, the poem can be taken much further to deal with the subject of constancy or inconstancy in other aspects of life. In the first stanza the narrator comments on the type of women he can actually love and names seemingly opposing traits. We can take that to mean that the narrator finds himself able to love all women, even those who will not be constant, or true, to him.

In the second stanza the narrator appears to speaking directly to a woman, or all women, questioning why they feel the need to be constant and true to men when men are not true to women. The narrator bids women not to be so constant in relationships because he is not willing to do the same.

In the final stanza the narrator brings in the goddess of love and her disgust upon hearing his argument. Love is willing to believe in constancy, and being true to the one you love. However, the narrator considers those who are true to be far and few and plainly states to women that if they insist on being true, they will do it alone for the man will not return the favor.

Overall Donne is making a comment on absolutes in life. Tying the concept to romantic relationships, the reader is shown the absurdity of siding with absolutes and expecting the same type of constancy from those people, or institutions, for which he shows so much loyalty. Donne's poem flat out claims that if you are foolish enough to be constant to one person or thing, without allowing room for yourself to err, you will surely be let down because that same absolute will not be returned to you.

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The Indifferent

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