The selections “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning and “Ah Are You Digging On My Grave” by Thomas Hardy demonstrates loss of social safety net during the Victorian Period. The speakers in both poems have a sense of social insecurity which influences their interactions with other people. The social insecurity would be as a result of changes from the traditional social structures which tied individuals to their communities through family and social structures.
In Porphyria’s Lover, a man strangles a woman using her hair and then claims to have experienced a good feeling from the act. He says that “In one long yellow string I wound Three times her little throat around, and strangled her” (40). The poem shows the social pressures faced by individuals in maintaining their social connections. In the Porphyria’s Lover, the man is obsessed with possessing the woman as his own, and this contributes to his action to strangle her. The man talks about his satisfaction with the way the woman is worshipping him and making herself available for him. It is clear that both the man and the woman are suffering from social insecurity as each try having the full attention of the other. The woman tried to make the man comfortable by sitting by his side, putting his arm around her waist, spreading her yellow hair and whispering that she loved him (Browning 10-20). The man is unresponsive to the woman’s advances, but when he responds he decides to kill her as a way of maintaining the passion. The man kept quiet as he “debated what to do” with the lover’s worship of him (35). The man expresses his satisfaction with the killing by associating it with her worship towards him and his desire to have the woman. He does not even believe that the woman felt pain from the strangulation and instead believes that she was willing to get killed for the sake of love and attention.
Similarly, Hardy’s poem uses figurative speech to express the sorrow and concerns of people that they would at one time be forgotten and their place taken over by rivals. Initially, the woman thinks that her lover is morning her death by “planting rue” on her grave (2). Rue is used in referring to the items used during a sorrowful moment, and the woman’s expectation is that her lover would be concerned by her death and would be involved in mourning. Mourning would mean that the woman remains important in the memory of her lover. However, the woman’s view about her importance is not shared by her former lover. The lover believes that his decision not to mourn her death “cannot hurt her” and that he should now live true to his preferences (5). The woman seems concerned that her living memory is fading away and both her former close associates and enemies seem less concerned. She asks if it is her “nearest dearest kin” digging the grave or her enemy (6-12). Hardy has used the phrase “digging my grave” as a figurative speech about memories about the dead people. The poem shows that the woman is concerned that she is no longer valued by anyone and that the only character that could be suffering from her absence is her pet dog. She says that “one true heart was left behind” when referring to the dog digging on her grave (27). This poem demonstrates a shift from the traditional values in which the social interactions were well defined for the wellbeing of the society.
The selections highlight moral decay in the society during the Victorian period, as people became obsessed with their social status. In the “Porphyria’s Lover” the man kills for love, while the “Ah Are You Digging On My Grave” provides information about possible infidelity by a man who hid his true feelings from the dead woman. In both selections, the characters appear active in pursuing their interests on social connections. It is clear that the two poems refer to social disruptions created by various changes in the society. The characters appear very concerned about their disconnection with the rest of the society. The selections demonstrate some of the social changes related to industrial development in the Victorian period. The development of industries could have disrupted the existing social structures as people relocated to industrial centers. In the “Porphyria’s Lover” the male character appear to be living a lonely life and becomes obsessed when a woman appears to worship him and call for his attention.
The man decides to kill the woman as a way of maintaining the rare feeling of being loved and wanted. In the “Ah Are You Digging On My Grave” the people seem less concerned about following their traditions of showing appreciation for the dead people. The people become forgotten after their death as people are preoccupied with other issues. The selections bring out ethical issues on the spread of violence and other evils in the society. In the “Porphyria’s Lover” a man kills a lover and then makes it look like a usual thing in the society. The poem shows the tendency by people to use violence in acquiring what they need. Similarly, in the “Ah Are You Digging On My Grave” the woman is concerned that she is being disturbed by her rival in an intimate relationship. There is a lot of social struggle as people try to deal with social disruptions created by moral decay in the society.