Analysis Of ' Sonnet Xliii ' By Elizabeth Barrett Browning Essay

Analysis Of ' Sonnet Xliii ' By Elizabeth Barrett Browning Essay

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Ungraspable and Unimaginable: A Critical Analysis of Visual Imagery in Browning 's "Sonnet XLIII"
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 's "Sonnet XLIII" speaks of her love for her husband, Richard Browning, with rich and deeply insightful comparisons to many different intangible forms. These forms—from the soul to the afterlife—intensify the extent of her love, and because of this, upon first reading the sonnet, it is easy to be impressed and utterly overwhelmed by the descriptors of her love. However, when looking past this first reading, the sonnet is in fact quite ungraspable for readers, such as myself, who have not experienced what Browning has for her husband. As a result, the visual imagery, although descriptive, is difficult to visualize, because in the three verses to be explored, there are instances where imagining an image is quite unimaginable. To begin, Browning compares her love to "the depth and breadth and height / [Her] soul can reach . . ." (2-3). Already in the beginning of the sonnet, Browning uses such a strong intangible descriptor of her love (her soul) that it is almost impossible to wrap one 's head around, let alone imagine, the volume, or "the depth and breadth and height" (2) of her soul. If Browning were to compare the volume of her love to something tangible, physical, and visual rather than her soul, the reader be able to have a reference to begin to imagine an image of said tangible object 's volume. This very case also appears when Browning writes, "I love thee to the level of everyday 's / Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight" (5-6). The comparison of her love to the "most quiet need" occurring everyday is incomprehensible for a reader who has not felt what Browning has felt. This is because the reader ...


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...phasis added) choose[s]" (13). In this last verse, Browning 's love reaches the ultimate limitation because the possibility of her to continue to love is not for her to decide because this possibility is in control by another being. Thus, these contradictions add to the difficulty of visualizing Browning 's love because opposing variables are being compared to describe her love. This can make the reader question her love and if she fully captured her feelings in the form of words. Even though Browning uses beautiful metaphors to express her love, her love is being compared to unimaginable and contradicting things that readers cannot completely grasp, particularly those who have not experienced the same intense love as Browning, such as myself. Thus, perhaps, this is the conclusion Browning is indirectly pointing towards, that love, like all things, comes to finality.

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