L 202 Literary Interpretation
Draft of Paper One
February 23, 2015
Professor Chu He
John Donne’s poem “ The Flea” presents a creative argument of a man wanting desperately to have sex with a young lady as a result of them both being bitten by a flea.
The gentleman thinks that there should not be any moral consequences for performing this act and that the lady should not be failing to fall for his lure to his bed. The message in the poem is: even when a lady is lured to fall into temptation and seduction of a gentleman , she can regain her composure to remain a virgin. The gentleman may use all kinds of trickery and persuasion to lure her to make love to him. With the humor of this poem, I wonder how any author could use the subject of a flea to write about intimacy.
Using a deconstructive (New Criticism 19) tactic in finding the contradictions and paradoxes in “The Flea” the gentleman compares sexual wants to the actions of a flea. As stated “It sucked me first, and now sucks thee, / And in this Flea our two mingled bloods be” (Lines 3-4). This comparison of the poem is very contradictory because as we look at the implications of the flea’s world it can transmit many illnesses. We acknowledge that fleas are insects that are very unwanted. Fleas inject themselves into many animals, which can give the animal many diseases. They can also spread diseases to human that are just as serious as sexually transmitted diseases that humans give to each other. For example the lady in the poem possibly feared that she would get a skin infection , plague, or typhus from the flea bite. She also had to deal with the gentleman possibly having syphilis or some other venereal disease. All would be unwanted, especially venereal diseases coming from humans having unprotected sex with an infected person. Almost the same as having a flea transmit da disease through blood. Comparing a flea to the need of sex , or to the gentleman desires makes me question the voice of the lady in this poem. Does Donne’s poem associate the idea of a flea sucking the blood of two individuals to laugh at the lady or to have her fears disappear. For the gentlemen would need a lot of evidence to incorporate in his speech to the lady alleviate her fears. What medical evidence would he have ? He just wanted to see if she would believe all the lies and trickery of words that he was using on her. Did he create this poem to ridicule the woman thinking that she would believe the facts the gentleman is giving to her about the flea sucking blood? How does a flea relate to sexual intercourse? When the fleas bite the two there was evidence of lost of blood like a woman loosing blood from having sex for the first time. This is a sign that she has lost her virginity. The speaker likes to create a sense of comparison between a flea sucking the blood of the male and female to those same people acting as though they had sexual intercourse using the critical approach of irony. “ It sucked me first, and now suck thee, / And in this flea our two bloods mingle be” (Lines 3-4). Comprehending that the flea biting the two individuals is being associated with sexual intercourse, which develops a purpose for showing some irony. The irony in this pome is that the flea became a symbol of love by having the be joined together from the bite of the flea . Was the speaker using this trickery of words to lure the lady into a stage of anxiety or guilt? Donne was making it sound as though they had already committed adultery before the marriage ceremony took place.
Looking into the use of ambiguity in the poem it is realized that the author used characters in the poem who were ambiguous. We did not really know about the actions of the flea just that he bite the couple and we didn’t know too much about the lady besides her battle with not having sex