The Quest of the Lover in John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets

Tanoue, Donna
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
In John Donne's Songs and Sonnets, the lover is on a quest, the ordeals of which may be viewed as several "rites of passage" to fulfill a profound need for love. The lover's movement from a state of separation and ignorance to love and knowledge may be viewed in terms of the overall development of the various speakers who show how the lover handles the anxiety accompanying the different stages of love. The methods which the lover uses to deal with the limitations of human beings and his illusions of the world provide an insight into his development and an understanding of his resolution of the quest. As a result of the quest, the lover has experienced both isolation and mutual love, and he emerges from his experiences as a totally different being -- one who gains a heroic stature because he has found a positive meaning in life, love, and death. The quest shows that the lover has attempted to come to terms with contradictions between the world as he sees it and as he would like it to be. The further the lover journeys on the quest, the less singular and alone he becomes.
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