The Power of Literary Devices Essay

Submitted By intron
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The Power of Literary Devices Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” is a provocative three-part proposition to his desired lover accentuating the theme of “carpe diem.” Marvell utilizes literary devices such as tone, pace, alliteration, and metaphor to augment his three part argument as to why his mistress should have sex with him: if there was time he would woo her, but there is not time, so she should give into his wishes. “To His Coy Mistress” examines the claim that ethics, specifically abstinence until marriage, are of no importance after death. The speaker attempts to convince his mistress that she must remove all apprehension when it comes to temptation. By seizing the day, she can evade regretting not having taken part in the audacious side of life. Marvell develops this argument through three distinct sections: if, but, and therefore. He tells his mistress that if they had all the time in the world he would woo her properly, but they do not, so they should therefore seize the day. The three part argument in the poem is exemplified by Marvell’s use of tone, pace, alliteration, imagery, metaphor, simile, and punctuation. In the first part of the speaker’s argument his tone is wistful and relaxed. This is seen in the first two lines of the poem, “Had we but world enough, and time, / This coyness, lady, were no crime” (1-2). Marvell uses punctuation to create a slow pace for the poem, which in turn conveys the meaning that time is of no importance to the speaker. Alliteration is used in the first four lines to create a relaxed tone, in line 1 “we” and “world”, in line 2 “coyness” and “crime”, in line 3 “we would” and “which way” and lastly in line 4 “long love’s”. The repeated use of open vowel sounds ‘would’ ‘which’ ‘way’ and ‘our’ make the reader sound wistful: “We would sit down, and think which way / To walk, and pass our long love’s day” (3-4). The speaker employs disingenuous imagery to form enticing pictures to persuade his mistress to be with him. “Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side / Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide / Of Humber would complain” (5-7). Marvell uses this metaphor to compare the unexplored water of the Ganges’ river to his mistress’ virginity. The speaker’s location on the Humber with the image of his mistress looking for rubies also reinforces her virginity, and the lack of his. Marvell uses seemingly romantic images with underlying provocative connotations:
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest.
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart. (13-18)
Though his words appear to be romantic and enticing, their primary goal is to seduce his mistress. This is evident by the fact that he spends a significant amount of time adoring different parts of her body, not the wonders of her personality and mind. He takes no notice of the concept of time using unrealistic numbers to communicate his love for his mistress. However, he spends a significantly greater amount of time on her breasts than her eyes, further revealing his desire is not for her love, but her body. In his first argument, Marvell’s use of alliteration and imagery allows the reader to uncover the truth of the speaker’s words: he is not after his mistress’s love, but after her body. In part two of the speaker’s argument, the imagery and tone take on a more morbid and straightforward view of life. The speaker tells his mistress that there is not an unlimited amount of time; that soon they will both die, “But at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” (21-22). Marvell uses less punctuation, suggesting the speaker’s tone is no longer slow and wistful, but instead it is more rushed. The speaker tells his mistress, “Thy beauty shall no more be found, / Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound / My echoing Song” (25-27). The speaker attempts to scare his mistress by telling her