Porphyria's Lover Gender

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“Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning exemplifies the gender ideology prevalent during the Victorian era in an unconventional way. The roles of Porphyria as a female and her unnamed, insane male lover develop throughout the poem. During the Victorian era, male figures were generally more dominant within society while females should be passive and submissive, forming a growing power struggle based on defied traditional gender roles. For the majority of the poem, Porphyria does not follow the standards of women in her time. Her actions throughout the poem exhibit a great deal of confidence as she controls her lover. Even so, the man strangles her, an action showing his dominance and reaffirming the norms of their time. Browning’s writing of…show more content…
Browning portrays the narrator as mentally unstable, an explanation for the abrupt killing of Porphyria. However, the murder was likely motivated by the narrator feeling threatened as a male within the power structure. A clear shift within the structure occurs when Porphyria sits down with her lover and speaks of her love for him. At this point, the Victorian gender norms are well-represented, and Porphyria’s lover takes advantage of this. The first conscious action of the narrator was his murder of Porphyria, after he realizes his dominance and states Porphyria “was mine, mine, fair / Perfectly pure and good” (Browning ). He locks Porphyria in a dependent, ideal state for eternity, allowing him to entirely take control. The narrator uses Porphyria’s fallen hair to strangle her, representing not only the regaining of his masculinity but the fall of the rebellious woman in society. After the murder, he begins to show qualities typical of a Victorian man. He “propped her head up as before,” using the physical control he lacked before the murder (Browning ). The passion behind his “burning kiss” on her corpse differs greatly than his previous feelings of unwillingness while Porphyria controlled him (Browning ). The narrator describes Porphyria reacting well to his newfound power, as “her cheek blushed bright” (Browning ) He justifies his actions in the last line of the poem by using the highest power. According to the narrator, “God has not said a word!” (Browning ). Despite the fact that the narrator has broken one of the Ten Commandments, the sexuality and unlikely power was an injustice to society and God and needed to be resolved with
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