John Donne No Man Is An Island Essay Help

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**{: .break one} ** . . . your entrance essay must not only demonstrate your grasp of grammar and ability to write lucid, structured prose, but also paint a vivid picture of your personality and character, one that compels a busy admissions officer to accept you. —Online college-application editing service. **

It was a seventeenth-century English-person John Donne who wrote, “No man is an island.” An excellent statement, but it is also true that “No woman is also an island.”

The truth of this was brought home dramatically on September 11, 2001. Despite the fact that I was only twelve at the time, the images of that day will not soon ever be forgotten. Not by me, certainly. Though technically not a New Yorker (since I inhabit northwestern Wisconsin), I felt, as Donne would put it, “Part of the main,” as I watched those buildings come down. Coincidentally, this was also the day my young sibling came down with a skin ailment that the doctors have not yet been able to determine what it is. It’s not like his skin condition was a direct result of the terrorist attack, but it probably didn’t help.

I have a personal connection to the events of that day, for some years ago my uncle by marriage’s brother worked in one of the towers. He wasn’t working there on 9/11, but the fact that he had been in the building only years before brought the tragedy home to Muskelunge Township.

It is for this reason that I have resolved to devote my life to bringing about harmony among the nations of the world, especially in those nations who appear to dislike us enough to fly planes into our skyscrapers. With better understanding comes, I believe, the desire not to fly planes into each other’s skyscrapers.

Also, I would like to work toward finding a cure for mysterious skin ailments. Candidly, I do not know at this point if I would be a pre-med, which indeed would be a good way to begin finding the cure. But I also feel that I could contribute vitally to society even if I were a liberal-arts major, for instance majoring in writing for television.

Many people in the world community, indeed probably most, watch television. Therefore I feel that by writing for TV I could reach them through that powerful medium, and bring to them a higher awareness of such problems as Global Warming, Avian Flu, earthquakes in places like Pakistan, and the tsumani. Also the situation in the White House with respect to Mr. Scooter Liddy. To be precise, I believe that television could play a key role in warning people living on shorelines that they are about to be hit by one humongous wave. While it is true that in northwest Wisconsin we don’t have this particular problem, it is also true that I think about it on behalf of people who do. No man is an island. To be sure.

Another element in my desire to devote my life to service to humanity was my parents’ divorce. Because I believe that this is valuable preparation for college and, beyond, life. At college, for instance, one is liable to find yourself living in a situation in which people don’t get along, especially in bathrooms. Bathrooms are in that sense a microcosm of the macrocosm. Bathrooms also can be a truly dramatic crucible, as the playright Arthur Miller has demonstrated in his dramaturgical magnum opus by that title.

I am not one to say, “Omigod, like poor me,” despite the fact that my dad would on numerable occasions drink an entire bottle of raspberry cordial and try to run Mamma over with the combine harvester. That is “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.” As the Danish composer Frederick Nietzche declared, “That which does not kill me makes me longer.” This was certainly true of Mamma, especially after being run over.

Finally, what do I bring to the college experience? As President Kennedy observed in his second inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do to you. Ask, what can you do to your country.”

I would bring two things, primarily. First, a positive attitude, despite all this crap I have had to deal with. Secondly, full tuition payment.

While Dad pretty much wiped out the money in the process of running over Mamma—she was in the house at the time—my grandparents say they can pay for my education, and even throw in a little “walking-around money” for the hardworking folks in the admissions department. Grandma says she will give up her heart and arthritis medications, and Grandpa says he will go back to work at the uranium mine in Utah despite the facts that he is eighty-two and legally blind.

In this way, the college won’t have to give me scholarship money that could go to some even more disadvantaged applicant, assuming there is one. ♦

Donne is approaching death. Hearing a church bell signifying a funeral, he observes that every death diminishes the large fabric of humanity. We are all in this world together, and we ought to use the suffering of others to learn how to live better so that we are better prepared for our own death, which is merely a translation to another world.


Perhaps Donne’s most famous prose, “Meditation 17,” is the source of at least two popular quotations: “No man is an island” and (not his exact words) “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” In his meditations, Donne sought to examine some aspect of daily life—usually a regular religious rite—and explicate its meaning for himself and, by extension, all Christians or humanity in general.

In this two-paragraph meditation, Donne meditates upon the sounding of a church bell signifying a funeral and connects it to his own present illness. He wonders if the person is aware that the bell has sounded for him. (Obviously, if someone is dead, he does not know and it is too late for him to meditate upon it.) Donne then applies the idea to himself, using the bell to become aware of his own spiritual sickness, and to everyone else by noting that the church is a universal establishment. Every human action affects the rest of humanity in some way. The church’s universality comes from God, who is in charge of all “translations” from earthly to spiritual existence which occur at death. Although God uses various means to achieve this changeover, God is nonetheless the author and cause of each death. Donne also compares this death-knell to the church bell calling the congregation to worship, as both bells apply to all and direct their attention to matters more spiritual than material.

Donne uses an interesting image when he considers how God is the “author” of every person and every death: “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.” Whether a man dies of old age, in battle, from disease or accident, or even through the actions of the state dispensing its idea of justice, God has in a sense decided the terms of each death. As universal author, God will bind together these various “translated” pages, each man a chapter, into a volume which is open to all. In the new universal “library” of mankind, “every book shall lie open to one another.” Yet all of this imagery takes up only one sentence, and Donne returns in the next sentence to the meaning of the bell.

Donne also recounts how the various religious orders disagreed about which group should be given the privilege of ringing the first bell calling everyone to prayer; the decision was made to allow the order which rose first in the morning to ring that bell. Again Donne connects this to the death-knell and urges himself and his readers to take its imminence into account when deciding what to do each day. After all, the bell really tolls for the person who has the ears to hear it.

At the opening of the second paragraph, Donne returns to his idea that “no man is an island,” indicating that everyone is connected to every other human being in some way. Just as dirt and sand clods are part of the European continent, so too is each man part of the entire human race; the removal of a clod diminishes the continent, and the removal of a human life diminishes mankind. Since every death diminishes the rest of mankind in some way, when the bell tolls for a funeral it tolls in a sense for everyone.

Donne concludes by stating that his meditation is not an effort to “borrow misery,” since everyone has enough misery for his life. He does, however, argue that affliction is a treasure in that it causes men to grow and mature; therefore we inherit wisdom from perceiving another’s suffering. Although a man may not be able to make use of that wisdom himself as he suffers and dies, those who observe it can better prepare themselves for their own fate.

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