Within the poem "Porphyria's Lover," what are the issues of the day that Browning appears to be addressing in the poem?

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This poem is Browning's one effort of which I'm aware that's analogous to Poe's tales. A murder is committed for no reason (not that there ever is a valid reason for murder) and it comes at the reader out of nowhere. I am not sure that there is actually a specific issue of the day being addressed here. More often in Victorian literature, we see the author struggling with the meaning of the modern world and the question of whether the old values can still hold their power in a time when so much has changed so quickly. Hence the interest in the distant past, such as Tennyson's concern with medieval England, and Browning's with Renaissance Italy.

That said, a Gothic element appears frequently in nineteenth-century art and is often expressive of a duality in man's outward nature and in man's psyche. The interesting thing about "Porphyria's Lover" is that one doesn't usually associate this trend with Browning. His best-known poems are usually straightforward expressions of more or less "mainstream" human qualities, both good and bad. The dark undercurrent of the Victorian world expressed not only in Poe but in the Bronte sisters, in Stevenson, in Oscar Wilde and others is mostly out of bounds in Browning's best poems. But the power of "Porphyria's Lover" derives from the very unexpectedness of its violence and its disconnect from Browning's usual easy and conversational style. It thus does express that same duality found in the works of the other writers mentioned, and that almost schizoid quality is, indeed, part of the Victorian Zeitgeist.

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In "Porphyria's Lover," Browning is addressing the obsession the outwardly polite and prudish Victorian society had with sensational stories of horror and depravity.  The themes of sex and violence and madness in this dramatic monologue speak to this obsession.

Browning turns the conventional presentation of these issues and themes, however, by making them seem natural and beautiful.  Porphyria glides (line 6) in amidst the rain and the wind and shuts out the cold and the storm (line 7).  She builds a fire that warms the cottage (line 9).  She bares her shoulder (line 17) and lays her hair upon his cheek (line 19).

At a poignant (a feeling of specialness) moment, she totally gives herself to her lover, and he, trying to preserve the moment, strangles her with her own hair, painlessly, according to the speaker. 

Browning forces readers to contemplate the relationship between sex and violence and power and complex madness, as well as beauty. 

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