Edna St. Vincent Millay: Poems

"Love Is Not All" Commentary and Analysis 10th Grade

The speaker in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “Love Is Not All” describes reality and crushes the fairy tale belief that love brings infinite happiness and solves all problems. This narrator expresses her thoughts on falling in love throughout the poem; bluntly, she describes life’s most basic necessities, which love cannot replace. Mocking those who strongly believe in the power that love holds, she aims to persuade the reader to accept love as an irrational notion. What appear to be her cynical thoughts developing throughout the beginning of the poem turn outs to be a dramatic build-up to emphasize her real intentions.

The speaker uses repetition in the first six lines as an important tactic, thus guiding the reader’s thoughts into circling around the negative aspects of love. Repetition of “not” and “nor” exaggerates all that love cannot do. It “is not meat nor drink, nor slumber nor roof,” and it cannot “clean blood, nor set the fractured bone”; simply put, love does not even begin to fulfill a human’s most basic needs for survival. Continuing the repetition of all that love cannot do, the speaker notes its inability to take the place of a “floating spar,” comparing it too a life preserver or floating piece of wood for...

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