Porphyria’s Lover Analytical Essay
The poem “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning is a dark and twisted monologue that follows the narrator recant of the time he spent with his beloved Porphyria before killing her. The monologue is written in first person, from the perspective of the lover. The poem is separated into two halves- The first half of the poem is a traditional love poem that depicts the relationship between Porphyria and her lover, the second half turns the poem into a tale of horror that describes the narrator committing the gruesome crime of killing Porphyria. Browning uses Love, Jealously, and power as themes to tell the story of Porphyria’s death from a lover’s point of view.
The poem begins with Browning creating a dark, vicious atmosphere through the use of the weather; Porphyria comes into the cottage soon after, this creates a Juxtaposition in order to emphasize the difference Porphyria makes in the setting after she enters the cottage. The narrator provides the weather with human emotions the wind is personified as “sullen wind [that] was soon awake…tore elms down.” which would also describe Porphyria’s lover at the beginning of this poem as he sits in his house alone. The lover then says, “I listened with heart fit to break.” This shows how depressed he is before Porphyria arrives. When Porphyria enters the cottage she “shuts the cold out and the storm” and with her womanly touches is able to make a fire and bring cheer to their home, “And kneeled and made the cheerless grate Blaze up, and the entire cottage warm”. This shows the true power Porphyria’s has on her lover. When she lights a fire into the cheerless grate, it is talking about both the grate in the lover’s house but also the metaphoric grate about the lover’s depressed attitude at the beginning of the poem. This creates an example of the bond between Porphyria and her lover.
As the poem continues, Porphyria embraces the speaker, putting his arm around her waist, and offering him her “smooth white shoulder bare” she also “withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, And laid her soiled gloves by,”. When Porphyria “untied her hat and let the damp hair fall”, this can be seen as a sexual image, especially as she takes off her dripping cloak and gloves. This can allude to their being a sexual relationship between her and her lover. Porphyria sits by her lover’s side and attempts to talk to him, but he does not reply, “And called me. When no voice replied”. This is the first cue that there is something wrong with the narrator and foreshadows a shift in his emotions towards Porphyria.
The second half of the poem shifts into a tale of horror that describes the narrator committing the gruesome crime of killing Porphyria. Her lover knows that Porphyria worships him, “at last I knew [she] worshipped me” this makes him her God and makes a perfect example of how committed she is to him. The emotion causes the speaker to feel: “happy and proud” as he looks into Porphyria’s eyes, He then says “That moment she was mine, mine, fair,”. The repetition of "mine" indicates his obsession with her, but not only does he want her to be his forever; he wants to preserve this innocent moment of pure bliss. To preserve this moment he kills her by wounding her hair “Three times her little throat around, And strangled her”. The fact that he uses her yellow hair to do so is symbolic because it is describing something that was once so perfect and beautiful used as a weapon. The narrator believes that the only way to conserve their love forever is to kill her, to capture her in her purest and best moment.
At the end of the poem, the narrator then justifies his actions by saying, “No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain.” He then uses a simile to talk about the life in her eyes. “As a shut bud that holds a bee, I warily opened her lids: again Laughed the blue eyes without a stain” When a bud shuts and hold a bee it is no longer free to pollinate other flowers this is similar to her not being able to leave him and talk to other men because she is dead and she will belong to him forever. His final reaction to Porphyria's death confirms his insanity. He does not show remorse for killing Porphyria; instead, he imagines that she is "smiling" and that he has done the right thing in killing her. He then says “And yet God has not said a word!” This is enough evidence for the speaker that what he has done is not wrong. He believes God is on his side, despite their being a commandment in the bible saying "Thou shalt not kill", as God has not come forward and told him it was wrong of him to strangle her. However, use of "yet" assures us that he will pay for his actions.