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A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

by John Donne

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What does A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning infer about the addressee's personality?

Quick answer:

We can infer from the personality of the addressee that she's likely to become upset now that her lover is about to leave her for quite some time. In the poem, the speaker attempts to prevent his lover from getting too upset by encouraging her to see the bigger picture.

Expert Answers

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Donne's “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” has a somewhat paradoxical attitude towards women. On the one hand, it presents us with the misogynistic stereotype of women as weak, timorous creatures liable to dissolve into a fit of tears at the drop of a hat.

On the other hand, it shows women as being capable of understanding the bigger picture, of rationalizing themselves into a condition of stoic acceptance. Because if women were incapable of maintaining a stiff-upper-lip and accepting the inevitable without getting too upset, then the speaker's words would be wasted.

The poem is primarily concerned with trying to convince the speaker's beloved that there is no need for her to get upset over his imminent departure. He seems to think that there's a real danger that she might just go to pieces when he leaves.

To prevent this, the speaker resorts to a series of elaborate metaphors designed to appeal to his lady's brain rather than her heart. He wants to subdue her emotions, not rouse them further.

To this end, he encourages her to see the bigger picture, to realize that she is a fixed point in the universe around which he revolves and creates a perfect circle that will eventually bring him back to her. And she cannot perform this vital role in his life if she allows her emotions to get the better of her.

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