Essay, Research Paper: Porphyria's Lover By Robert Browning
“Porphyria’s Lover” is one of many poems by Robert Browning. In this poem
a woman named Porphyria is killed by her lover. This man’s obsession with
Porphyria led him to murder. Through vocabulary, imagery and situation Browning
shows the reader the mind of an obsessed man. Imagery in a poem helps the reader
visualize the surroundings and helps the reader infer the main events in a poem.
The opening lines in the poem show a dark dismal night. “The rain set early in
tonight,/The sullen wind was soon awake,/It tore the elm-tops down for
spite,/And did its worst to vex the lake:/I listened with heart fit to break.”
This helps the reader think of a dark evening and a man sitting impatiently for
his lover. Browning gives Porphyria power by saying, “She shut the cold out
and the storm,/And kneeled and made the cheerless grate/Blaze up, and all the
cottage warm.” The reader can sense that this woman holds some power over her
lover. She seems to take care of him. This sets up a reason why the speaker is
obsessed with Porphyria. Porphyria is obviously of a higher rank in society by
her use of the words “pride and vanity.” This “rank” gives her obvious
power. Porphyria’s power is stopped when she tells him why she came.
“Murmuring how she loved me--she/Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor/ To
set its struggling passion free/From pride, and vainer ties dissever,/And give
herself to me forever.” This is Porphyria’s weak attempt at a break-up. By
“murmuring” she loses the pride she talks of. One can infer that she had
come to him from a party when the speaker says “tonight’s gay feast.” By
breaking-up with him she could possibly enjoy her evening with another man.
Porphyria knows that he needs her to care for him but does not want that kind of
life anymore. She tries to make this break-up less painful for her lover by
saying that she would stay with him if she could but she can’t. She lies to
him. Passion blinds the speaker to all sense of reality and he starts a chain of
thinking that leads him to believe that Porphyria is truly enamored of him.
“But passion sometimes would prevail,/Nor could tonight’s gay feast
restrain/A sudden thought of one so pale/For love of her, and all in vain:/So,
she was come through wind and rain/Be sure I looked up at her eyes/Happy and
proud; at last I knew/Porphyria worshipped me.” The speaker thinks that she
has come to him to save her from her destiny and family. “All in vain” shows
how the speaker has very little reality left in his mind. Those words show how
the speaker is below Porphyria and how his inferiority may lead him to try to be
her superior. He loved her to a certain point and past that point she infested
his mind. To not have her around him to take care of him was too much for him.
The speaker “debated” what to do and realized that she was with him at that
moment looking very pretty because she had come from the party and had not left
immediately. “That moment she was mine, mine, fair,/Perfectly pure and
good.” He realizes that to keep her he must kill her. “In one yellow long
string I wound three times her little throat around,/And strangled her.” The
speaker then projects his feelings on her. He says he is sure that she felt no
pain when he knows that he was hurt and in turn he hurt her. The speaker’s
need for Porphyria in his life led him to kill her and to have him by her side
forever. In a way, the speaker has chosen Porphyria’s path in life; instead of
being in high society she can stay with him. “. . . Her head, which droops
upon it still;/The smiling rosy little head,/So glad it has its utmost
will,/That all it scorned at once is fled,/And I, its love, am gained
instead!” In those lines, one can see that the speaker is obsessed. In his
mind his deeds were not wrong because God had not bothered to strike him dead by
lightning making the speaker’s obsession with his love legitimate and valid in
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