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What are the poet’s thoughts and feelings about love?
In Modern Love, Dunn presents many ideas about the functioning of modern love, and they ways in which it differs from what he might perceive as traditional, or true love. He possibly discusses how modern love is superficial, and only a facade, as well as how modern love is interrupted by a variety of other commitments, but also how love is possibly the only escape from an otherwise dull and dreary life.
Dunn initially talks about the superficiality of modern love by talking about how they are ‘enjoying minutes of rented silence’. The fact that it is a ‘rented silence’ suggests that it is only temporary, showing how modern love is not permanent. Furthermore, it could also suggest that to achieve these ‘minutes’, there has been a cost involved, whether monetary or purely symbolic. In addition, it says there is ‘not much to show for love’, further portray how this love is ineffectual, and that not much has been achieved by this love. The fact that they are ‘in a house that is not theirs’ further shows what length this couple has to go to to put up the facade of modern love. The juxtaposition of the word ‘love’ with ‘alone’ further displays the disconnection in the relationship of ‘modern love’. The powerful use of enjambment could be used to signify the constant progression of time throughout this poem, during which no ‘love’ is taking place.
Furthermore, Dunn discusses how modern love is often interrupted by other commitments, namely, the family. Dunn writes how the ‘under-tens and invalids’ are finally asleep. The reference to what can be assumed to be the elderly as ‘invalids’ is somewhat derogatory, and this could be used to showcase the resentment shown towards them, as they may be responsible for the failures of modern love. In addition, the fact that they can only procure ‘minutes’ of ‘silence’ from this, shows how much these other commitments intrude into their love, and the fact that they prefer to ‘enjoy’ the ‘silence’ shows how hectic their involvement with their family can be. The reference to the family as ‘the upstairs people’, can possibly be used to suggest how this couple wants to distance themselves from the family, which can possibly suggest that the speaker yearns for a loving relationship, but this is not possible.
However, it can also be said that this love is their only solace from an otherwise dull and dreary lifestyle. The fact that they choose to ‘enjoy silence’ can be used to show that they simply value to spend time together; to get away from their hectic daily lives. The fact that it is said that their ‘lives flap’ is personification used to convey how there is a sense of disorganisedness or desperation in their lives, and Dunn goes on to write how ‘there is no hope of better happiness than this’, which goes to show that although modern love may be ineffectual and dull, it is the highlight of their lives.
The fact that the poem is 14 lines long shows that it is written in the style of a sonnet, which could possibly suggest that there is some real love being represented here, and that the whole poem is not necessarily a criticism of modern love. Alternatively, however, this structure could have potentially been used sarcastically. Dunn also writes how ‘all other lives’ are ‘worn down to trees and sunlight’ and how they ‘look forward to a visit from the cat’, and this could be used to highlight how dull and uneventful their lives have become, and how ‘modern love’ is their only escape from this.
Overall, although Dunn portrays Modern Love as somewhat of a facade, and superficial, as well as being constantly being interrupted by other commitments, he may also be trying to state how modern love is often the only solace couples have from their increasingly dull and dreary lives.