The Theme of "Meditation 17"ÃÂ Armed with the use of metaphor and paradox, John Donne brilliantly develops the theme of "Meditation 17."ÃÂ He proclaims that we are all a part of the whole in which everyone's actions affect one another.
Someone's death, compared to the tolling of the bell, indirectly affects one even though "that he knows not it tolls for him."ÃÂ The ringing of the bell reminds one of death and how close it is. There are no atheists at life's end. We are born dying, and as we realize this, we begin to fear what is beyond the end of life. We become closer to God to seek forgiveness for our sins and try to bargain our way into heaven. Donne explains how "when [the church] baptizes a child"ÃÂ this child is recognized, as is Donne, as one of God's subjects. The child ""ÃÂ¦is connected to the head which is my head to."ÃÂ
The child has become a member of the same faction as Donne. That affects him. On the event of someone's death Donne compares them to a chapter in book as simply being "translated into a better language."ÃÂ This "translation"ÃÂ represents the freeing of one's spirit to rise into heaven. Donne explains everyone's unity by how the death of one affects us all. A "Man is a piece of continent."ÃÂ If he dies ""ÃÂ¦a clod be washed away"ÃÂ¦ [and] "ÃÂ¦Europe is the less."ÃÂ This effectively states that "any man's death diminishes [one]"ÃÂ and brings everyone closer together. As the clods of earth are washed away, it brings the erosive ocean closer to us all.
Donne also uses paradox to develop his theme. Donne states that "affliction is a treasure."ÃÂ The suffering of one's self shows how close the icy hands of the reaper are, bringing one closer to god and to a more moral, religious outlook toward life. In this way affliction really is a treasure.
I believe Donne's theme to be true to a certain extent. I believe that some people cannot affect us. The ripple effect could eventually carry some kind of recourse on us. However, there are not enough years in a lifetime for an African tribesman's death to affect us, even remotely. I will agree that the death of someone close to us or to someone else we know will affect us. This is how, I believe, Donne meant it. Death is a good reminder of how short life is. Life, in itself, is a marathon. It's just a question of pace. Some people run as fast as they can, blissfully indulging themselves as the world passes by. The smart ones take their time, enjoying the sites and pleasures the world has to offer.