While love may be an extremely touchy subject as well as one that can be incredibly hard to interpret in a unique way, it is not impossible to broach the subject from a fresh perspective; In “Love is not all” Edna St. Vincent Millay is able to approach love in a way that initially seems extremely pessimistic and almost cold, but continues on to show the reader that she is not actually all that closed and even reveals some vulnerability by the very end. While the more negative approaches she uses would appeal to some people, it seems that if you actually take the time to read it a few times the cynical façade fades away and you can understand Millay’s interpretation of love as guarded but not completely negative.
Millay’s treatment of
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The instinctive reaction to this statement that seems so cold and bitter with the first reading would not be one that is expected to be a response to a love poem, one may shudder at the thought of “A man making friends with death” (Millay, 7) as the result of love –or lack there of- and it could be that this is the very reaction that Millay wants. Later, she continues to tell us the things that she feels love is not equal to; “Not meat nor drink” (Millay, 1), indicating even from that very first line that her opinion is that love is not crucial to life and living, very different from classical love poems, in which love is usually portrayed as the most important thing in the world. While her view of love can be seen as refreshing, it will most likely been viewed as just outright cynical and negative. We shouldn’t disregard her cynicism but we can however, assume that it is the result of lost love or heartbreak, and see that it is a breath of fresh air into the genre she has chosen to write in.
The comfortable, open tone that Millay is able to use –assuming that her attitude is in fact the result of some sort of heartbreak- is a truly refreshing take on a genre that has developed a stigma for formulaic conventions and structure. Most people experiencing heartbreak are not the typical audience for a love poem,