"Holy Sonnet 10" by John Donne is a powerful example of the strength that a sonnet can have at arousing deep emotion about life’s most powerful and immanent aspect- death. The sonnet demonstrates the writer’s own deep personal meaning toward death. Tina Skouen argues that Donne writes expressively and with passionate rhetoric about his feelings towards death. He tells the reader that of his belief that death is not the "Mighty and dreadful" (2) experience that people all fear. In line with Skouen’s analysis, Donne’s language “Mighty and dreadful” explains how we the readers have a perceived notion of death that implies a fearful respect, which Donne thinks may be unnecessary. John Donne speaks to death in a personified way all throughout "Holy Sonnet 10". Choosing to implement this literary technique, by treating death as a person, makes Donne’s ability to critique death more concrete. When Donne expresses his feelings regarding death to the reader by appearing to be speaking with death he is showing his perception of the mortality of death. Personification of death captures the entire significance and importance of the theme- that death is a part of personhood, not to be feared, but to be lived out to get one to a greater purpose. Skouen says that John Donne's feelings are displayed most strongly at the parts in the poem that personify death. I agree with this, and agree with her analysis that personification is the most important literary technique in the poem. Its use reiterates the central paradox that is the significant message- that in order to live eternally we must die. Donne implements additionally rhetorical devices to further explain his message of this central paradox. Skouen explains that "Holy Sonnet 10" uses the metaphor of sleep to give examples of Donne's feelings of the evident lack of substance and power of death. Donne references the afterlife by using the metaphor "One short sleep past… death shall be no more" (13-14). When Donne compares...
Cited: Skouen, Tina. "The Rhetoric of Passion in Donne 's Holy Sonnets." Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 27.2 (2009): 159-165. Web. 27 Nov 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40232638>.
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