How do you think Browning has used the male perception to represent questions of morality in "Porphyria's Lover"?I am concerned with the representation of gendered values and the context of...

How do you think Browning has used the male perception to represent questions of morality in "Porphyria's Lover"?

I am concerned with the representation of gendered values and the context of "Porphyria's Lover," particulary Browning's exploration of sex/violence/Victorian values/morality and his choice of the male persona inexploring these issues.

Asked on by izy-n1x0n

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very interesting issue to consider in relation to this great poem and I think the subject of gender is very important in discussing the full complexities of this poem. However, at the same time, I have always read this poem to be first and foremost a study of madness in its most chilling nature. Browning, the master of dramatic monologues, in this poem gives us an insight into the mind of a maddened killer and how he justifies his crime. Facing the prospect of losing his lover, the speaker wonders "what to do" until he realises what his actions must be. As they embrace, he realises that he has gained her completely:

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,

Perfectly pure and good: I found

A thing to do, and all her hair

In one long yellow string I wound

Three times her little throat around,

And strangled her. No pain felt she;

I am quite sure she felt no pain.

We see the distorted view that the speaker of the world as he realises that in his mind, the only way to trap this moment and to possess her completely is to kill her. The way he tries to convince himself that Porphyria felt no pain when she killed her, and the repetition he uses makes us doubt his words as he presents us with his skewed and dangerously violent world view which leads him to kill that which he loves to "gain" her forver and to stop the course of time and her inevitable parting.

Thus, whilst this poem is definitely about sex and violence and the domination of one man's will over another, let us not forget that centrally it is a study of madness, and these other aspects of the poem must be considered in the light of this central focus.

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