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