Reading Response 3: Pleasure in Self Pity
After considering and talking about all of the readings we have done in class, I’m noticing a distinct pattern in 19th Century literature that has to do with a certain pleasure in self loathing. Many of the protagonists in the stories we’ve looked at find themselves forever under a dark cloud of misery. It seems as though what brings this on is that they know too much about the Universe. All of the knowledge they have acquired has forced them to realize things and ideas about the world that feel hopeless and devastating. While being filled with torment, there’s seductiveness at the same time. It’s very romantic in that nature has a way of not only consuming one physically, but also psychologically.
In turn, what nature does to us and makes us feel, we have the ability to do so onto others and feel the need to want to consume something else- just as we are. In Notes from the Underground, The Underground Man states that, “Man likes to make roads and to create, that is a fact beyond dispute. But why has he such a passionate love for destruction and chaos also?” I think that the seductive qualities of consumption lie in the feeling of power. Or, they lie in an internal conflict between wanting to be overtaken by all the knowledge and nature in the world and wanting to overtake something else. We can see the same kind of behavior in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein- Victor allowed his knowledge to overtake him and he even acknowledged how obsessive he became with his studies and became so consumed with himself that he wanted so badly to create something that would see him as this God-like figure- the ultimate creator.
Reading Response 4: Porphyria's Lover
The darkness of “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning is very quickly hinted at in the first couple stanzas of the poem. Porphyria, the speaker’s lover, emerges into the cottage from a storm and the “sullen winds”. She proceeds to take off her wet garments and sit next to the speaker. The speaker is non responsive to her but lays his head on her exposed shoulder as she murmurs to him of how she loved him so much. In a seemingly intuitive action, the speaker decides to strangle Porphyria around her neck with her hair- preserving her in that exact moment in time.
The word Porphyria refers to a disease having to do with porphyrins in the skin. My father actually has a type of Porphyria and in his condition he is allergic to the sun. Doctors have told him that Porphyria is also known as, “Vampire’s Disease”. From having the name “Porphyria”, it could be inferred that the speaker’s lover is diseased of some sort. In the fifth stanza the speaker says,
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 giver herself to me for ever.