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The Relations Sex And Death In Poe’s “For Annie” And Browning’s “Porphyrias Lover”

1526 words - 6 pages

Both Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “For Annie” and Robert Browning’s poem “Porphyrias Lover” create complex relations between sex and death. In “For Annie” the masochistic storyteller sees sexual excitement as a suffering to be endured and embraces the state that follows as an estimate to death. He is masochists, who takes pleasure in envisioning himself dead and resolves his own sexual worries by visualizing a situation in which he is motionless and immobile, while his lover takes on a maternal role. In Robert Browning’s “Porphyrias Lover,” on the other hand, the speaker is vicious, resolving his problems through murdering his lover and rationalizing his actions in terms of an imagined post-sexual state. Both speakers believe they are honorable figures and victims of their own desires, but both disclose in their diction and imagery the real sexual nature of their problems. In addition, In both poems, death becomes a metaphor for satisfaction whether forced on another or a state realized for oneself.
The opening lines of “Porphyria’s Lover” create a tone of gloominess and violence that is seen throughout the rest of the poem. There is personification of the wind, where it seen as a destructive human force, aggravated by the same “spite” that the speaker will reveal in his murder of his lover. Porphyria’s entrance into the sixth line begins a ten-line sentence that ends with the minute she calls on the speaker. The last word she says in the sentence is “me”; the speaker insists on the fact that he himself is the target to which she is moving, and he remains the epitome of her attention in the lines leading up to her murder. Porphyria pays close attention to her lover, attempting to appease him in a way that suggests she is possibly aware that he is irritated with her; however, he does not talk to her. Porphyria is seen as the governing partner in the relationship. She places the speaker’s head on her shoulder; she seems at ease, in addition, baring her shoulder in front of him and by “murmuring how she loved me,” she takes on the part of a care provider. (21) The reference to the “gay feast,” given the common use of “gay” at the time to describe a “fallen woman,” suggests that maybe she is a prostitute, used to sexual intimacy with men, and that out of love rather not for money she has taken time to visit the speaker. At this point in the poem, the speaker is clearly the weaker of the two. Even the poems heading suggests that his relation to her defines him, rather than being his own identity; we know her name but we never discover his own.
However, the speaker, is apparently changed by his acts of sadistic violence toward his lover, an action that he reveals as something that he thinks of at the spur of the moment rather than a pre-calculated act: “I found /A thing to do.” (37-38) Porphyria’s light-colored hair that earlier on she had used to console the speaker becomes the reason of her death, as “all her hair/In one long yellow string I ...

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