1 Kashura

No Man Is An Island Analytical Essay

Analysis Paragraph

John Donne in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" demonstrates the connection all humans have with one another. Lines 1-4 contain a metaphor comparing all living people to a continent. Lines 5-9 contains a simile explaining that when one piece of the continent washes away, regardless of size, then the entire continent is affected. Line one emphasizes this interconnectedness with the claim that "No man is an island." Donne draws further attention to the theme with sound devices: (1) the alliteration of "death diminishes in line 10 draws the reader's attention to the notion that death diminishes all; (2) the juxtaposition of Anglo-Saxon and Latin-sounding words bring added emphasis to thee in the last line, jolting the reader into reality and answering the question "For whom the bell tolls?" 

For instructions on how to write your own analysis, look at this Robert Frost example.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

This famous verse of John Donne's, a great poet of the early 1600s, who was closely associated with the metaphysical school of poetry, is characterized by its unusual degree of intellectualism, but it is also highly dramatic in its cadences and repeition.  Characteristic of Donne's metaphysical poetry is the conceit, a fanciful metaphor that makes an unexpected and striking comparison, although it is briefer than those of the Elizabethan poets. The conceit in this poem is the surprising comparison of man to an island in a negative sense [as not being an island].

By means of this conceit, Donne contends that all humans share in every experience:

Any man's death diminishes me
Because I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, there is a responsibility of one man for another that is implied. This concept has been passed down throughout the ages and into different cultures. For instance, the pioneering pilot and author, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry declares in his work, Le Petit Prince, "Etre homme, etre responsable" [To be man is to be made responsible]. 

Moreover, with no man existing alone, there is a community of man that shares in suffering. And, by empathizing with others' suffering, the individual recognizes the common humanity of all mankind. This concept was exemplified during World War II, for instance, with many Americans' convictions that the Western world had an obligation to fight Nazi Germany and its atrocities against Poland, Belgium, and France, as well as its bombings of Great Britain.  Indeed, then, when the death knell "tolls," it tolls for everyone. By the same token, when there is new life, all mankind shares in this, too.

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