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The Monologues Of The Man He Killed English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2712 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the course of this essay I will be comparing and contrasting three starkly differing dramatic monologues:, Robert Browning's dramatic monologue, 'My Last Duchess', where an Italian aristocrat reveals his cruelty to his late wife whilst showing off a portrait of her to one of his guests and Browning's other poem 'Porphyria's lover' which gives the reader a dramatic insight into the twisted mind of an abnormally possessive lover, who wishes the moment of love to last forever, in addition to 'The man he killed' by Thomas hardy, which deals with issues regarding war. Hardy also gives a narrative of how he kills a "foe", and that this "foe" could be a friend if they met "by some old ancient inn", instead of the battlefield.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the rural British population had become based in large cities, due to the alterations caused by the Industrial Revolution. As living areas got smaller, people's lives became much more intertwined; this resulted to poverty, violence, and aggression towards love became part of everyday life within the society.

In the Victorian era, the city dwellers had a diverse feeling of insecurity and independence. The nineteenth century also saw the brisk growth of newspapers, which were mostly scandalised and were overflowed with articles of violence. Due to these influences, writers in the Victorian period now felt that in order to incite an emotional reaction they had to compete with the turmoil and excitement of everyday life. This gave poets the urge to shock their audience in a more dramatic, sensational and in a narrative way.

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Robert Browning was known as one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century. Two of Browning's poems 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'My Last Duchess' are dramatic monologues which provide a complete detailed view of a character's personality and controversial life depending issues shared within the harsh society at the time. Furthermore, one of the foremost genres is that of a dramatic monologue, in which a character delivers a speech explaining their feelings, actions or motives.

Nevertheless, passion and violence became popular for a number of writers; amongst them were Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. In many of their poems, violence which involved psychotic love became the major issue of the modern urban-dwelling conditions within the society. This can be seen in Browning's Dramatic Monologues "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess'' and Thomas Hardy's 'The Man He Killed'.

Dramatic monologues can be manipulated to affect the reader in a number of ways; the reader can be inspired by the sentiment of the poem, the reader can empathise with the poem and the audience can attempt to imitate the actions of the characters and the consequences of reading a stirring dramatic monologue persists.

The attitudes shown in the three poems "the man he killed" by Thomas hardy 'my last duchess' and 'Porphyria's lover' by Robert browning are very different; whereas hardy creates a modest, confused character who feels very guilty. These characteristics are also revealed through the poet's use of structure, stanza and his choice of language. All three poems share a dramatically influenced theme; 'death'. (All three poems are about killing)

Respectively, one aspect that all love poetry have in common is the way in which it can engross the reader in its world and engage with their emotional side. Poets normally gain this by using number of poetry devices and several themes are used to conjure up vastly varying types of emotions; anger, love and disgust amongst others.

In the medical world, Porphyria is "a genetic abnormality of metabolism causing abdominal pains and mental confusion." Similarly, in "Porphyria's Lover," Porphyria is seen as a source of mental anguish and pain for the narrator in which he can find only one treatment for.

The narrator starts off the poem by using pathetic fallacy as a technique, 'Sullen wind, down for spite, did its best to vex the lake', Browning presents the weather with human emotions. The wind does not only blow in the poem, but it is also "awake" and " sullen." It pounds down trees "for spite" and attempts its best to irritate the lake. It clearly is not just a gloomy, dark and stormy night outside.

Since wind is known not to able to feel emotion, it appears that the narrator

is colouring the outside environment with his own inner emotions. He feels depressed and hurtful himself, not the wind.

The Structure of 'Porphyria's Lover', has got patterned rhyming rhythms such as; ABABB. The intensity and unevenness of the pattern suggests the madness disguised within the main character's thoughts in his head, this also suggests ambiguity

The opening of Porphyria's Lover" is set in a rural cottage. While a storm rages outdoors 'The rain set early in tonightThe sullen wind was soon awake', this gives the audience a feel of nature performing its worst, whilst Porphyria sits in a cosy cottage making herself feel comfortable as if she is the owner of the place. This gives the audience a dramatic picture of rural simplicity. At this moment 'Porphyria's Lover' is the most shocking and influential poem of the three monologues.

Audience in the 19th century would have seen this poem shockingly dramatic, because the modern audience would be thrilled as they will notice that Porphyria is craving for attention and desperate to please him. However, once Porphyria begins to take off her wet clothing, the poem leaps into the modern world. She embraces the main character, offering him her bare shoulder 'Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl' She begins to tell him how she has defied her family to be with him; this phrase in the poem would be one of a controversial matter as women in the 19th century did not behave in such immoral way, because it was inappropriate for a 'lady' to act the way Porphyria acted.

Besides, he realizes that she worships him at this instant 'Porphyria worshiped me: surprise'. Seeing that she will eventually give in to society's pressures, and wanting to preserve the moment, he strangles her to create suspense and tension, 'yellow string I wound-Three times her little throat around'. This poem is touched with violence and sensual overtones of which is intended and proposed to shock the Victorian audience.

The first action that Porphyria takes when she enters the narrator's

place is light his fireside. She even does this before she takes off her dripping wet coat and gloves. She seems to be bothered very much for the narrator and puts his comfort and wellbeing before her own. The narrator describes the fireplace a "cheerless grate," before Porphyria comes over. It's as if she gives his home a sense of "home" and belonging.

Moreover browning dramatises effectively when the narrator notices Porphyria's hair 'and let the damp hair fall' it foreshadows what will occur at the end of the poem. He addresses it as the damp hair, not her damp hair. It's as if she doesn't possess it herself.

The narrator acts as if Porphyria purposely exposes her shoulder, but it could just be that the narrator is examining/watching her as she moves in a seductive manner. She may have not been trying to deliberately catch his eye. Even so, he takes it as his certainty that she intentionally "made" her shoulder bare.

Upon reading this poem, my feelings were of shock, bewilderment and sick fascination. The poem was disturbing and installs thoughts on the values and context of the Victorian era.

In contrast with 'Porphyria's Lover', In 'The man he killed' the soldier joined the army not just for killing people but for the funds and money he will gain, and as the second Boer (Boer War in South Africa) was at the period of the Victorian times so everything dated back then was a tussle, therefore the solider experiences guilt for his terrible actions; this is obvious when he says; "I shot him dead because- because he was my he was my foe, just so - my foe of course he was; that's clear enough; although." his guilt is vivid because he is probing his actions and This also tells the reader that he is too hostile to find a reason as he mentions 'because', two times which suggests hesitation. Nevertheless he ultimately comes to the conclusion that he had no option but to kill his 'foe' because he was his enemy. Although he is still conscious that this explanation is not good enough and so it does not clear him and excuse him for what he did. The third line of this stanza features the use of phrases such as 'Just so' and 'of course' which suggest that the narrator is demanding to satisfy and convince himself that his actions were inevitable.

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Moreover, the stanza however, ends with the word 'although', suggesting that the writer is not in fact reassured with the idea that he has killed his 'foe'. The narrator also uses enjambment to link to the fourth stanza 'although He thought he'd 'list, perhaps', he reflects on the fact that the soldier he killed probably decided to join the army because he had no work and had sold his belongings 'Was out of work--had sold his traps'-The narrator understands this, having been in a similar situation himself and having found himself with no option but to join the army. It was not a positive decision, but a last resort when there were no other options.

Furthermore, in the first stanza the narrator reveals the dramatically common view between himself and his victim: in more advantageous circumstances they could have shared hospitality together 'in some old ancient inn'. This idea is in contrast to that in the second stanza: the conditions in which the men did meet. "Ranged as infantry" suggests that the men are not ordinary foes but have been "ranged", that is set to oppose each other. The phrase "as he at me" specifies the similarity of their situations.

The poem also has a very powerful atmosphere that consists of different tones. At the beginning the tone is welcoming heart-warming when the narrator evokes that he and his 'foe' could have sat down and had a drink together if the circumstances were different, "We should have set us down to wet," the tone quickly turns hostile in the middle of the poem as it is seen in this quote, "But ranged as infantry/ I shot at him as he at me," In an instant, the tone deprives from a humble ambience to a dark and gloomy feeling as the narrator destroys his enemy.

This is a significantly bitter poem presenting the foolishness of war, and undermining belief in the patriotic motives of those who deal with one another in battle. The narrator does not find any decent reason for his action as he hesitates and repeats 'because-because'; Hardy implies that there is no valid reason. The short lines, simple rhyme scheme, and colloquial language make the piece almost sound like a nursery rhyme in ease, again in ironic contrast to its less than likable subject.

'The Man He Killed' seems to speak of the dramatic, shock and confusion that affects all victims of war. In my point of view, it describes my own inability to recognise how violence can be such a familiar event amongst the supposed living beings of the human race.

On the contrary, Murder, mystery and trickery all describe Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess."  From the speaker's implicit suggestions to the death of his wife the audience might easily believe that the speaker committed an unforgiving crime out of jealousy.  His flowery speech is ambiguous and disguises any possible motives; however, the obscurity is left unexplained. 

The poem starts off with the poem's speaker showing a guest his collection of individually specially made art, at the moment when the two are obstructed before a picture of the narrator's late wife. This picture is also a custom-made work, "I call that piece a wonder,"; but describing the portrait drifts so casually and relaxed into remembering the duchess herself that it soon becomes apparent the husband considered her no less a piece of commissioned work forged by his orders, a pattern which will be remembered towards the conclusion of the poem .

Due to the poem's style, structure, and historical references, it becomes clear that even if the speaker did not directly kill his wife, he certainly had something to hide. The style and structure of this poem plays a significant role in the effect of the poem. "My Last Duchess" is written as a dramatic monologue: a speaker narrates the entire poem to another person present with him; a guest-the speaker, said to be the Duke of Ferrara, is very controlling. The enjambed lines indicate the control that the speaker is applying on the conversation and gives the feeling that he is rushing through parts of the poem and therefore the enjambment is not a coincidence; it illustrates that the Duke is out of control. 

In addition, the repetition of specific words, such as 'Fra Pandolf' and 'smile', suggest that the Duke has some type of jealous obsession. The Duke does not mention 'Fra Pandolf' to show respect or admiration; he repeats the name to recommend that "perhaps Fra Pandolf chanced to say, 'Her mantle laps Over my Lady's wrist too much'" in an attempt to seduce the duchess. The word, 'smile' however, is tied to the Duke's fear and suspicions about the Duchess' behaviour towards other men. This is established when the Duke tells the guest "Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile?" With these two lines, the Duke is obviously hinting at the seductive behaviour carried out by the Duchess as he claims she had flirted with men.

The Duke is jealous, selfish and manipulative; he is filled with family pride and a sense of ownership over the recollection and memory of his deceased wife. The audience also get the impression that he might have murdered her, perhaps when "all smiles stopped altogether"?

The duke describes the Duchess and later on he reveals his dark character by unwittingly contrasting it against her more admirable nature. Traits in the duchess that the duke identifies as inappropriate are, in fact, aspects of her character that make her a civilised human and this causes the audience to sympathise for her. For instance, the duke was outraged by the duchess' enthusiasm, saying, "She had a heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad" -The duchess' ability to enjoy the bases aspects of life, such as her 'white mule', or the "dropping of daylight in the west," infuriated the duke, or rather filled him with hate. He felt that he should be the only one to make her excited or happy, but he failed to do so when the simplest gestures of humanity and kindness or things of beauty could.

Thus, through the poem of the speaker in "My Last Duchess," Browning establishes for the audience, the character of that speaker, that of the duchess, the agent, and the count. Through his crafty portrayal of Alfonso II, the Duke of Ferrara through a poem rooted upon real events, Browning criticises not only that humiliating character, but also to those corrupted by the glimmer of control and power. 

In conclusion I think that 'Porphyria's Lover' is the most shocking and dramatic poem; The speaker lives in a cottage in the countryside whilst his lover is a blooming rich young woman who comes in out of a storm with a 'cloak' and 'gloves' and proceeds to make a fire and bring happiness to the cottage. It is shocking and dramatic when she embraces the speaker and offers him her bare shoulder even though he does not speak to her. Also, the speaker realises that she will ultimately give in to society's force and pressure, and wanting to preserve the moment, he wraps her hair around her neck and strangles her leading to her dramatic death. It is also dramatic because he then toys with her corpse, opening the eyes and propping the body up against his side. In Irony, he sits with her body through the entire night, the speaker remarks that God has not yet moved to punish him.


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