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Comparing Porphyria's Lover and Farmers Bride

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Porphyria’s Lover by Robert Browning and Farmer’s Bride by Charlotte Mew both share a number of poetic characteristics. They were both written during the Victorian era and take the form of a dramatic monologue. This was a period in which a preoccupation with inequality between sexes was referred to in literary circles as ‘The Woman Problem.”

In both poems, the speaker belies the message of the poet, which is that in the socially accepted attitude that dominance of men over women was acceptable it is often actually the behaviour of men in love relationships that is the cause of problems.  

Whereas in PL the female character is depicted as possessing enormous sexual allure and therefore power over the male, who feels intimidated and compelled to eliminate her. The dominance of men over women in social relationships became the subject matter of many genres. Mew contested the secondary position of women, and in FB she illustrated this attitude by ironically presenting a female character, which is then completely destroyed by an overly controlling husband.

Both poems rely heavily of the use of natural imagery associated with the female. In FB we see the woman as passive timid and childlike. “…A little frightened fay… with her wide brown stare…we chased her, flying like a hare.” All of these have connotations of small, defenseless animals and the natural prey showing the belief that men are superior linking to what was the majority view in the Victorian era.

Similarly, Browning objectifies Porphyria to the point where she is completely described stereotypically as a doll. “All her yellow hair was displaced.” again, this is implying she’s inferior and she is “too weak.” The imagery used in Porphyria’s lover is effective as it shows despite the man feeling like he has lost his control over the woman, but more importantly lost control of himself. Similarly in The Farmer’s Bride, we see the male character continuously attempting to catch his bride and although not actually strangling her, seek to immobilize her. “We caught her, fetched her he at last and turned the key upon her, fast.” She is effectively rendered house bound, “she does the work about the house as well as most, but like a mouse:” again a passive, small animal image to suggest female subservience.

 

In Porphyria’s lover there is a strict rhyme scheme of ABABB. This illustrates that love is strict and follows a certain patterns; suggesting their relationship is forced. As we can tell B is more dominant over a suggesting one of the two are more dominant over the other.

In The Farmers Bride, there is an irregular rhyming scheme enhancing the rushed pattern.

Browning also uses a polysyndeton by repeating the word “and” showing the endless list of things his ‘lover’ has done.

In Porphyria’s lover we can see the man began unhappy within his relationship as he felt unmanly however we can see in Farmers Bride the groom has always had power, “ I propped her head up” she was incapable so he done it for her.

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