In Porphyria’s Lover, Browning begins with describing the environment an’ surrounding. ”The rain set early in to-night/ The sullen wind was soon awake.” The words set up the stage for the instances which would happen later. These words indeed create a theme as it symbolizes a storm outside the doors and an environment which doesn’t soothes the heart of the lover. A cottage by the lake inside which, the poet sits idle observing his mistress shutting the cold and storm out and trying to ignite the “cheerless grate”
After which, Porphyria dripped her cloak and shawl just to unite with her lover, who doesn’t show much emotions as compared to Porphyria. The scene shows level of overt sexuality but it not just sexual. It is indeed presented to bring forth the romance her heart yearns for. It is seen that Porphyria is defying her family and friends to be with the speaker.
“And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me”
When Porphyria listen no reply from the speaker, she put his arm about her waist. The speaker then describes that how her yellow hair gets displaced. She did all these to impress and show her love to the speaker, yet getting no love from the latter. It’s quite strange that the speaker shows no emotion at the moment, but he has some hidden desires which Porphyria doesn’t understand. In the speaker’s views, her heart’s endeavor isn’t too strong, even after she “Murmured how she loved me”.
The speaker knew well that for her, he’s like a god and she worships him. Realizing the fact that she shall eventually fall in for society’s pressures, an’ wanting to freeze the moment, he strangles her to death with her long yellow hair. He even feels sure that Porphyria felt no pain, after which he toys with her corpse.
The poem revolves around a psychological theme as the poet or speaker seems to be in some dilemma as he had little or no idea about how to react at the moment,” While I debated what to do”. As it is clearly assumable by the context that the speaker indeed has some love for her mistress as he said that “she was mine, mine, fair”, but strangled her to death just to preserve the hour after which he sat with her all night, where things didn’t move nor stirred and without god’s interference.
When we talk about psychological theme, we must clearly analyze the surrounding where the speaker was in a comfy cottage with a storm outside the doors demonstrating the fearful presence of Nature trying to create a dark desire in the speaker’s heart. Here, the storm symbolizes the inner turmoil the speaker goes through. Like elm-tops were tore apart, speaker’s mind was also tore apart and vexed like the lake. But not only Nature is responsible for such act. It can be surmised that the love inside speaker had taken a massive form which fears societal norms and regulations; the fear that her love shall fade because of such norms. Also, as women were objectified as a possession during that era, the speaker did such crime to gain a dominance over her. These all reasons were responsible too for such an act.