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Love Sonnet 17

Love Sonnet 17

by Pablo Neruda

Identity Theme

"Love Sonnet 17" thinks about identity in a unique way. In the poem, the love between the speaker and his paramour is so intense that they cease to be themselves; they lose their sense of individuality and become one with one another. In the final stanza, for example, the speaker says his hand is his lover’s hand, and hers is his. They even dream the same dreams. Neruda celebrates this oneness, but we have to think: should two people have to become one in order to be in love? Does Neruda think that people cannot maintain individual identities if they are in a relationship?

Questions About Identity

  1. Why does Neruda wait until the final lines to bring in the imagery of two people becoming one? Couldn't he have mentioned it earlier?
  2. What does it mean that "your eyes close on my dreams" (14)? Can the speaker's lover know what he's dreaming? And how does he know this anyway?
  3. How does the use of the words "I" and "you" (or these verbal forms in the Spanish) affect the way we think about identity in the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

True love often causes us to lose our individuality and merge with another person. This self-annihilation is an incredibly powerful experience.

Starting the poem with the words "I do not love you" separates the "I" and the "you" too much; the two lovers can never become one with that kind of distinction.

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