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Women In 19th Century British Poetry Response

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Women in 19th Century British Poetry Response: "Porphyria's Lover," "My Last Duchess," and "The Leper"

The feelings about women in the Victorian period were very disheartening. Women were seen as objects and viewed as less than human. These views were upheld by men who perpetuated a women's place in society as a pretty thing to look at and nothing more. When a man was tired of her or felt like he could not possess her completely he could kill her as the only way to ensure that she is his forever. The following poems (all written by men), are an insight into the minds of men during the 19th century. "Porphyria's Lover, "My Last Duchess," and "The Leper" are all poems where men kill their object of affection for not being able to fully have them or (as in the case of "The Leper") gloat about her on her death bed.

"Porphyria's Lover" starts out quite innocently with two lovers meeting in a little cottage. Porphyria is described as beautiful, sexual, and at the same time, innocent. She walks in from the storm and starts a small fire in the cottage fireplace making "all the cottage warm" (line 9). This could allude to Porphyria makes the cottage warm with her sexuality and causes the narrator of the story, the man she is meeting at the cottage, to sweat. She proceeds to seduce him further by taking off her cloak and shaw, letting her wet hair down, she puts his arm around her waist, and pulls her shirt of her shoulder so that she can rest his head on it. He seems completely unresponsive. She continues engaging him by telling him that she loved him, "murmuring how she loved me -- she/ too weak, for all her heart's endeavor/ to set its struggling passion free/"(21-23) She goes on to imply that she is of a higher class than he is. She talks about being afraid to "server" her pride and vain from ties (her economic background) but she remembers that he loves her and she did not want him to think that she did not love him back. "But passion sometimes would prevail,/ Nor could to-night's gay feast restrain/ A sudden thought of one so pale/ For love of her and all in vain/" (29) He is in complete disbelief that she loves him that much and starts to think about what he could do to help her. He then comes up with a rational idea, he strangles her. " . . . I found/ A thing to do, and all her hair/ Three times around her neck I wound/ Three times her little throat around,/ and strangled her . . ./" (37-40) Clearly, this was the only choice they had. He says that this is the only was he could have Porphyria without any interference. "And I, its love, am gained instead!/ Porphyria's love: she guessed not how/ Her darling wish would be heard/"(55-57) He here claims that it was her wish to be his forever and if this is the way it has to happen; so be it. What is more disturbing is that he props her head onto his shoulder and claims that what he did was right by citing God. "And thus we sit together now/ And all night long we have not stirred,/ and yet God has not said a word!"(58 - 60) Stating that God has not punished him nor judged him so what he dd was justifiable and right.

Much like "Porphyria's Lover," "The Leper" also features a lower class narrator who is in love



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