The Ultimate Horror (Love) Story

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"In one long yellow string I wound 
Three times her little throat around, 
And strangled her. No pain felt she; 
I am quite sure she felt no pain."

Porpyria's Lover, Robert Browning.


When I first read this poem, I was shocked and kind of sickened- the man just killed a woman whom he supposedly loved. Initially, I thought that Porphyria may have cheated on the speaker, and this is why he killed her. This could explain her paleness:

Murmuring how she loved me--she 
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor, 
To set its struggling passion free 
From pride, and vainer ties dissever, 
And give herself to me forever. 
But passion sometimes would prevail, 
Nor could tonight's gay feast restrain 
A sudden thought of one so pale 
For love of her, and all in vain:

The vainness of his love almost surely indicated an instance of cheating to me. However, palness also indicates illness. U
pon a second reading of the poem, I realized that rather than the speaker of the poem killing this woman because of disdain for unfaithful acts, he killed her because he loved her. He wanted to remove her pain due to an illness.


6 Comments

Jessie Krehlik said:

I like where you're going with this, but it still leaves the question of him playing with the dead girl's body after death. In the poem, he plays with her eye lids or something like that, and I don't care how much he loved her, that's just rude. You don't play with the body of the deceased.
I liked your title, by the way. It really IS the ultimate love/horror story.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I think that he didn't play with her body inasmuch as opened her eyelids to try and see the happy look in her eyes. Maybe. I don't agree with the rudeness of playing with her dead body, but I can't really get a feel on this guy. Is he insane? This will be interesting to discuss today.

Aja Hannah said:

I liked your first idea first. It feels like an old Moulin Rouge. Perhaps the girl had many men before him and he was jealous. Then she found out she was dying and stuck to her one "true" love. And he wanted to treasure her perfection that was finally his and also put her out of her misery so he killed her. Though this seems far fetched.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Aja, I'm not sure if I feel that he was treasuring her perfection. I didn't receive indication that the speaker was selfish and treasured her perfection lookswise. Now that I think about it- Dr. Jerz said in class yesterday that Porphyria is the one who lit the fire. Maybe she is weary from his disease. Maybe he knew she loved him all along, but the fact that she'd stay with him even through his illness is an indication to him that she adores him. He wanted to put her out of her misery in the sense that he didn't want her to have to be continually weakened by his disease.

Josie Rush said:

When I read that she was pale, I just assumed that was a way of him commenting on her good looks, because "back then" a pale complexion was a sign of beauty. I felt like *he* may have been the ill one, since he was pretty much immobile through the entire poem; letting her pull the blinds and fix the fire, then *she* put *his* arm around her waist.
Though, really, I think there are so many ways to interpret this poem especially now that we're all aware that poryphria is a disease, and things could get really symbolic. One thing I didn't consider until reading some people's blogs and discussing in class was that she cheated on him. It makes sense in the context of the poem, if you chose to read it that way. Or maybe he was the one she was cheating on her other man with, and she wasn't willing to give up the first guy, so our speaker killed her? There are just so many ways to go with this.

Kayla Lesko said:

Never thought about it that way before. It does make sense though.

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