What is the theme of "Porphyria's Lover"?

Some possible themes of "Porphyria's Lover" include the objectification of women and the hypocrisy of sexual women versus sexual men. The lover objectifies Porphyria by only describing her physically-attractive characteristics and using possessive terms for them. Porphyria is also devalued due to her sexuality, which the lover uses as justification to kill her but not himself.

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Another theme that develops in this poem is the objectification of women. From the beginning, the speaker reduces Porphyria to her separate (and sexually exciting) body parts: her damp hair, her waist, her bare shoulder. As the speaker becomes more captivated with Porphyria's sexual advances, there is no discourse of her mind or of his unwavering and true love for her. Instead, Porphyria is reduced to an object to be possessed:

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good

The speaker feels that he has some claim to Porphyria because "Porphyria worshipped [him]," and this surprises him.

He then uses Porphyria's damp hair, which has propelled his sexual desires since she entered the room, to strangle her. Thus, her own sexuality is her demise, both exciting this man and being used to end her life.

In the end, Porphyria is simply an object to be possessed. Even as a corpse, the speaker lays claim to her "smiling rosy little head," a childlike image that reinforces her unequal...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 878 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on March 31, 2020