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The Treatment Of Love In "Love Is Not All" By Edna Millay

1264 words - 5 pages

While love may be an extremely touchy subject as well as one that can be incredibly hard to interpret in a unique way, it is not impossible to broach the subject from a fresh perspective; In “Love is not all” Edna St. Vincent Millay is able to approach love in a way that initially seems extremely pessimistic and almost cold, but continues on to show the reader that she is not actually all that closed and even reveals some vulnerability by the very end. While the more negative approaches she uses would appeal to some people, it seems that if you actually take the time to read it a few times the cynical façade fades away and you can understand Millay’s interpretation of love as guarded but not completely negative.

Millay’s treatment of love in “Love is not all” appears to be as unique as her interesting perspective and way of looking at the subject. While the easiest route may be to read the poem and judge her for being cold and closed of the idea of love it makes more sense to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she is wary, but not closed to the idea as we know it. If you take her tone and diction, perhaps not as cynical but as a guarded reaction to love lost, the poem instantly takes on a completely different feeling and becomes more of a commentary on a universal feeling of heartbreak then it is pure cynicism. If you continue to read the poem keeping in mind the idea of her jaded attitude being the result of some sort of past unrequited love you can see that her tone isn’t as distant as it originally seems but is in fact hurt or wounded at best, the statement “I might be driven to sell your love for peace” (Millay, 12) can be seen as a statement from a miffed lover as opposed to one from an anti-love extremist.

Despite the fact that most poems about love would not begin by telling you that “Love is not all” (Millay, 1) It does not seem to be a flaw in her writing and she almost seems to enjoy turning these conventions on their heads and uses this to her advantage. The instinctive reaction to this statement that seems so cold and bitter with the first reading would not be one that is expected to be a response to a love poem, one may shudder at the thought of “A man making friends with death” (Millay, 7) as the result of love –or lack there of- and it could be that this is the very reaction that Millay wants. Later, she continues to tell us the things that she feels love is not equal to; “Not meat nor drink” (Millay, 1), indicating even from that very first line that her opinion is that love is not crucial to life and living, very different from classical love poems, in which love is usually portrayed as the most important thing in the world. While her view of love can be seen as refreshing, it will most likely been viewed as just outright cynical and negative. We shouldn’t disregard her cynicism but we can however, assume that it is the result of lost love or heartbreak, and see that it is a breath of fresh air into the...

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