The Point of View in "Porphyria\'s Lover"


"Porphyria\'s Lover" is an exhilarating love story given from a lunatic\'s
point of view. It is the story of a man who is so obsessed with Porphyria that
he decides to keep her for himself. The only way he feels he can keep her,
though, is by killing her. Robert Browning\'s poem depicts the separation of
social classes and describes the "triumph" of one man over an unjust society.
As is often the case in fiction, the speaker of "Porphyria\'s Lover" does not
give accurate information in the story.
The speaker is a deranged man who will stop at nothing to keep his dear
Porphyria. Although the introduction refers to the weather, it also does an
effective job in describing the speaker. In this case, it is nighttime, and the
thunder is roaring. The speaker starts by saying: "The rain set early in
tonight,/The sullen wind was soon awake,/ It tore the elm-tops down for spite,/
And did its worst to vex the lake(Barnet 567):" This description gives the
reader the first glimpse of what is yet to come. These turbulent words help
give the poem a gloomy feeling.
When Porphyria arrives at the speaker\'s cottage, she is dripping wet.
The speaker makes it an important point to describe her after her arrival. The
description of the articles of clothing that Porphyria is wearing helps the
reader know that Porphyria is from an upper-class family. She was wearing a
cloak and shawl, a hat, and gloves. It is apparent that the speaker works for
Porphyria\'s family. He lives in a cottage, somewhat distant from the main house.
The cottage is cold until Porphyria warms up the room with her presence and by
stirring up the fire. The way the speaker introduces Porphyria is very unique.
He states that Porphyria "glided" into the room. With this description, the
lover insinuates to the reader that the he sees Porphyria as some kind of angel
who moves swiftly and gracefully across the floor.
The speaker is upset about the party going on in the main house.
Porphyria will be married soon, and he feels that if he were an upper-class
citizen, Porphyria would be able to marry him. There is definitely much love
felt between the two, and the speaker realizes that he will lose Porphyria if he
does not do something. There is a sense of desperation felt by the speaker. He
also feels that society\'s rules are very unjust and cruel. At the same time,
though, it seems that the lover does not blame Porphyria for what is unfolding,
but nonetheless, the speaker acts in a cold manner towards her. She, trying to
cheer him up, puts his arm around her waist. During all this time, Porphyria
seems to be happy but not necessarily about seeing her lover. The speaker says:
"Happy and proud; at last I knew/ Porphyria worshipped me;" Unbeknownst to the
speaker, she could have been excited about the party. This also comes to show
that the speaker was out of touch with reality.
During the first part of the poem, Porphyria\'s lover is leaning against
her shoulder. He is completely dependent upon her. This is where the lover
shows that he is acting in a very cold manner, but he is actually trying to make
the reader feel sorry for him. Shortly afterwards, he starts explaining the
problem, and states his side of the story. The speaker begins to feel sorry for
himself, and his frustration and fears begin to mount into an expected act of
violence towards Porphyria.
The only thing that Porphyria\'s lover can think of is to strangle her
with her own hair. By doing this, he believes that she will be his forever.
The speaker also sees this as the next best thing to marriage. He is completely
out of his mind, and thinks that she does not feel any pain when he strangles
her. Robert Browning does an excellent job in emphasizing that Porphyria\'s
lover is not sure if, in fact, Porphyria feels no pain. The speaker states: "No
pain felt she;/ I am quite sure she felt no pain(Barnet 568)." By strangling
Porphyria, the speaker believes that they will be together, and that everything
will be better in the near future. It seems the speaker "witnesses the woman\'s
apparently wholehearted love-(and) is also the moment that he attempts to
preserve by killing her (Maxwell 28)." Of course, this theory could not be
further from the truth, and this shows the reader that there is something