Posted On March 28, 2017
The poem ???Porphyria??™s Lover??? by Robert Browning features a significant moment which further develops the central idea of the poem. Browning explores the darker side of love and passion that develops into jealousy, obsession and possessiveness. The poem is written from the perspective of Porphyria??™s elusive lover. As the love and passion between them is made apparent the poem becomes more sinister. Finally the speaker, in a desperate attempt to control her, kills Porphyria using her hair to strangle her.
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The shocking revelation of Porphyria??™s murder is the significant moment in the poem. It is the climax of the poem as it fully develops the sinister character of the speaker. The human aspects of; jealousy, obsession and possessiveness, which have been laced through the piece come to a fatal crescendo. The shock of this outrageous action confirms the growing suspicion the reader has of the speaker as we are lead through his thoughts in this text,
???And all her hair
In one yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her.???
Browning??™s clever use of enjambment here forces the reader to read on and the structure mimics that of the malicious actions of the speaker. It does this by winding through the text as the man winds her hair around ???her little throat??™, which further heightens the tension. This key moment is further highlighted through the rhyme scheme. The whole poem is set in a rigid aa bb rhyme scheme however here it is disrupted and the words, ???around??™ and ???wound??™, create a rhyming couplet. This shift on the rhyme scheme indicates the debate that is going on in the speaker??™s thoughts though he tries to reassure himself it is the right action. This also suggests that he may regret his decision as before he commits the fatal attack his thoughts appeared far more developed and controlled.
The sinister and disturbing twist of Porphyria??™s murder is subtly built up from the beginning of the poem. The speaker??™s thoughts on the weather set the dyer and depressing atmosphere. His thoughts also seem to unwittingly reveal his deepest and darkest intentions,
???The sullen wind was soon awake
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And it did its worst to vex the lake.???
Here pathetic fallacy is used and from this we discover the hidden anger and vengeful thoughts of the speaker through his violent language. Furthermore we decipher that there are underlying issues in the speaker??™s mind other than the weather. The words used further highlight his obsessive and harsh nature as he seems to distance himself from the warmth of his home and connecst with the destruction of the storm.
With the arrival of Porphyria there seems to be another drastic shift in the mood of the poem. With her entrance all thoughts of the storm vanish and she becomes the object of the speaker??™s thoughts,
???She shut the cold out and the storm
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Here we see an introduction to warmth and light which is a contrast to the dark and formidable storm outside. This contrast seems to represent the contrast between the two states of the speaker??™s mind, perhaps the debate on whether or not to take her life. Browning seems to symbolise the importance of Porphyria in the speaker??™s life as with her arrival she, ??™shuts out??™ the storm. She also seems to also shut out the storm within the speaker??™s obsessive mind. The passion between them is also introduced with the blaze of the fire reflecting on their heated relationship.
As Porphyria makes efforts to ???cheer??™ the cottage up the reader is suspicious of the speaker??™s lack of movement and communication,
???When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,???
Browning further develops the possessiveness of the speaker through his passiveness. Porphyria is the only active one while the speaker seems to look on unresponsive and she treats him almost like a puppet. This suggests that the speaker has turbulent thoughts and therefore finds himself lost in them. The connection between the two characters is eerie and their love becomes darker as the poem develops.
This volatile and strange relationship between Porphyria and the speaker enhances our understanding of his jealousy. This further builds on our suspicion of this character. He is in emotional turmoil as he feels his love for Porphyria is, ???all in vain??™. This is because Porphyria will not be with him as she is,
???Too weak, for all her hearts endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever???
Here we see that the speaker and Porphyria, despite their desperate love for each other, can??™t be together. The speaker is quick to blame this on Porphyria??™s vanity and pride and his resent towards her is apparent. He also seems to despair at the lack of control in their relationship and this leads to the peak of his obsessive nature when he kills her.