Allusions In Holy Sonnet 5

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John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 5” explores the different elements required to make a human

being. By emphasizing the existence of two components—a physical body and a soul—the

speaker creates the idea that the two must coexist in order for either to survive. However, despite

the fact that humans have spiritual elements, the existence of sin taints both parts, and thus the

human is sentenced to eternal damnation. Furthermore, the speaker’s introspection unfolds

throughout the poem by weaving self-analysis with religious allusions. As a result, the speaker

comes to the conclusion that despite his sin, salvation is possible. Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 5”

appears to support the fact that sin is a sentence to eternal damnation, but through the speaker’s

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“Holy Sonnet 5” makes it evident that only a sinner who is genuinely repentant and

willing to pay for his sins can attain God’s salvation. Although the sonnet seems to advocate sin

as seductive and alluring, an analysis of the poem’s structure, symbolic imagery, and sound

reveals that sin can be controlled. By choosing to focus his attention on biblical allusions that aid

the speaker in developing a solution to his convicted sentence, he is able to remove sin’s

illicitness and wields that strong emotion into a method of redemption. Although Donne focuses

his attention on sin’s seductive nature, which had previously lured his body and soul with its

“lust,” he is able to skillfully channel the same emotion elicited by sin into longing for religion.

By expressing rebirth as a process only possible though flames, the speaker removes the sexual

connotation from sin itself and implicitly adds it to his religion by boldly asking God to punish

him for his transgressions. His demand to be burned instead of washed confirms that the speaker

has gained control of his sin and transformed it into passion for
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