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Robert Brownings Porphyrias Lover English Literature Essay

Info: 1047 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in English Literature

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The opening lines of the poem establish the tone of the event that is to follow by utilizing a descriptive nature of the storm. The diction of the poem is straightforward simple direct language. A storm sets the initial scene and represents the mood of the speaker through personification(describe). Browning also applies pathetic fallacy, in which something not human is given human qualities and feelings. “The rain set early in to-night, the sullen wind was soon awake, it tore the elm-tops down for spite and did its worst to vex the lake.” The wind is given human qualities to represent it is “sullen”; the storm ravages the trees out of “spite,” and proceeds to intentionally “vex,” or enrage the lake. Further in the poem, the speaker’s mood is sullen and he uses his mood to draw out some sort of response from Porphyria. The mood of the speaker is obvious when he expresses that he is listening to the storm raging outside, “with heart fit to break”, the speaker is suffering tremendously over something, and the weather outside emulates and strengthens his feelings of brewing jealousy and insecurity of his love for a women he will never attain.

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Porphyria glides into the speaker’s cottage, and immediately the tone of the poem alters. She is now in control, when entering the cottage “she shut the cold out and the storm”, a suggestion of her strength of her personality. The speaker presents a woman who actively moves around to set the mood of the moment she is seeking. There is no fire burning, despite the fact a raging storm is outside; “and kneel’d and made the cheerless grate blaze up, and all the cottage warm”. For the reader, this implies her sense of urgency to bring happiness and to rid the cottage of the speaker’s depressed, insecure and passive state. For it appears that he has been sitting isolated in his cottage during an intense storm without any effort to warm his home up. “Which done, she rose, and from her form withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, and laid her soil’d gloves by, untied”, which represents the immoral state of the affair that will never lie neatly tied and will always be soiled of sexual sins. “And last, she sat down by my side, and call’d me. With no reply”, the speaker is submissive in his depressed state, and allows Porphyria to move his arm to her waist to her choosing, while trying to seduce him with her yellow hair, she does everything, as he just sits on the couch silent and lifeless. She proceeds to embrace the speaker, presenting him her bare shoulder. At this moment she reveals her upper class limitations she must overcome to be with him. We then learn that Porphyria is disregarding her upper class friends and family’s wishes to be with the speaker, “But passion sometimes would prevail, nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain”. Defying her family’s wishes, “So, she come through wind and rain”, revealing her love for the speaker even with the obvious difficulties she must prevail over.

Unexpectedly, a turning point, the active gaze between Porphyria and the speaker, “Be sure I look’d up at her eyes, Happy and proud; at last I knew”, symbolizes the moment in which the speaker suggests his realization that she ultimately “worships” him in that one brief, but sensual moment. He realizes that she will sooner or later give in to her family and societal obligations and pressures, an understated theme of the poem. Porphyria appears to be of a higher social class than the speaker is. Her hesitation to be with him could possibly have to do with her hesitation to give up social standing and defy her family’s wishes. They are completely alone in his cottage, which isolates Porphyria and the speaker from the rest of society and the possibly contempt of their relationship. However, the sexual affair appears as something normal, acceptable, and almost moral. Porphyria’s love and innocent portrayal take importance over any hints of immoral acts she has committed with him. “While I debated what to do, that moment she was mine, mine fair, perfectly pure and good: I found a thing to do”, it is unusual for him, he is unsure and debates of what to do, but is composed while he premeditates his next act. Finally, wanting to preserve the moment of the love and admiration for him, he wraps the very thing she uses to seduce and control him, by using her hair around her neck and strangles her. The tables have turned; he is now in control and has preserved their forbidden love forever. The speaker murders her in an attempt to bring balance to their relationship. “I am quite sure she felt no pain”, represents he is insane and methodically justifies that premeditated murder is okay, and Porphyria would also accept her fate, she does not mind. The speaker is empowered by this act; he was the statue now she is. He interacts with her corpse to attempt to make her alive by propping her body up against his side and opening her eyes. They sit together the entire night, when morning arrives the speaker comments, “And yet God has not said a word!”, which represents he is unsure of what he has committed.

Consequently, “Porphyria’s Lover” characterizes the rational digressions of an insane man who uses reason and argument to justify his actions that reveal the disturbing traits of man and his insecurities. The poem’s theme of violence, sex, and madness demonstrates that men are insecure with women of higher social class and the only way to preserve the moment of passion is by murdering her. Death, functions as a social leveler, killing her makes her social standing unimportant. By portraying the sexual affair between Porphyria and her lover as normal, Browning makes the reader consider the relationship between sex and violence. In fact, his behavior is not normal, forcing the reader to evaluate the disturbing nature of the speaker’s madness, an insecure madness that the speaker conceals beneath his apparently calm behavior and rational manner.


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