Both Orwell and Browning denote how the societies of their respective works allow control of the population to become the forefront of their political structures. The historical context surrounding the two authors differs hugely; Orwell laments on the control of the population during and shortly after the Second World War, while Browning often discusses the power dynamic between man and woman, yet both writers force the reader to address the politics of control within their work.
In addition, Browning’s poems were written during a period of great industrialisation, which many theorists, such as E.A. Wrigley, believe led to a sense of numbness, as he wrote in “Energy and the English Industrial Revolution”,”For those unable to access nature, severed from its effects either by geography or emotional numbness, poetry provides an alternative ground for the expression and recollection of emotional experience” and so Browning used shock, often entangled with themes of overwhelming control, to engage the audience. Winston is painted as a caring man born into an uncaring world, that caters little for his wants and desires, while the Duke in Browning’s “My Last Duchess” has a total emotional disregard for the people, particularly the women, that surround him. Despite these differences, both characters end their tales by placing their value above that of their significant other, and those that surround them, in vastly different ways. Furthermore, Browning’s poem “Porphyria’s Lover” discusses the emotional and power dynamic between two people within a relationship, with control ultimately being inflicted by one onto the other.
With “The Patriot”, Browning explores the connections between two sets of people, and the idea of the fading of political control and power over the people, even from those who previously commanded respect.1984, written by acclaimed writer George Orwell in 1949, opens with a seemingly normal, yet instantly mystifying and engaging narrative background. Orwell uses the solemn phrase “bright cold day in April” signifying that the world of 1984 is little more than a facade; a living hell under the guise of the perfect utopia. Furthermore, the phrase “the clocks were striking thirteen” gives the reader the first indication that this reality is one completely detached from our own, with everyday rules such as time, being distorted, creating an uneasy feeling of mystery and division. Similarly, the description of the wind as “vile” immediately paints this reality as hostile and unfeeling, and Orwell uses this as pathetic fallacy for the society that Winston is entrapped within, instantly creating an antagonistic force for Winston to struggle against.
The description of the hallway of Victory Mansions as smelling “of boiled cabbage and old rag mats” creates a sense of poverty and despair, creating the portrayal of Winston as a sympathetic character, while vilifying the society of 1984 even further. The use of block capitals in the phrase “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” elaborates on the subtle feeling of overbearing control and power, while providing the antagonistic nature of society a voice and presence within the narrative, acting as the first time that both sides of the political struggle are revealed to the reader. The idea of control of the population arguably reaches hyperbolic levels when Orwell introduces the idea of the “Two Minute Hate” where the inhabitants of Oceania are forced to publicly exhibit their hatred for a former “leading figures of the Party” Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers. Describing Goldstein as “the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity” creates a vivid image of treason and betrayal. Orwell, using the sceptical and relatable Winston to deliver this portrayal, invests the reader themselves into the politics of control within Oceania.
Furthermore, Winston describes Goldstein’s rhetoric as “exaggerated and perverse” and likens him to sheep. While this provides a sense of bias, colouring the reader’s perception of how Winston interprets the world around him, the dehumanization of Goldstein pits him against the establishment, much like Winston. However, Winston’s inherent bias against Goldstein further demonstrates the hostile nature of 1984, and serves as the first demonstration of Winston’s subconscious indoctrination; to believe the convenient lies of a society he otherwise condemns. Winston looks upon the Party-formed image of Goldstein with a “painful mixture of emotions” serving as another indication that Winston has a conflicting ideology, and while Winston questions why “his influence never seemed to grow less” he supports the indoctrinated citizens of Oceania in the ridicule of Goldstein’s theories, “held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were” which provides a succinct depiction of the many conflicting sides of the political spectrum, and showcases the underlying presence of propaganda, over Winston’s ideology and mindset.During the Victorian period, many new findings within the scientific community rocked the world, particularly because of the many changes being made to rural England during the Industrial Revolution.
As science moved forward, so did art and literature; “art for art’s sake”began during the end of the nineteenth century, and Browning would respond to these cultural changes with poems discussing relationship of morality to art amongst others. This is particularly clear in Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” in which the protagonist of the Duke appears more emotionally attached to the artistic memorial of his late wife, the titular Duchess, than the Duchess herself. The opening line “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall” begins with a strong implication that the last Duchess is, in fact, the most recent in a long line, highlighting the extent of his control over the people in his life.
The phrase “looking as if she were alive” depicts the dead Duchess in a nonchalant fashion, normalising the death and violence that the Duke exhibits, extinguishing the discourse from the other side of the argument. Furthermore, the Duke exhibits a large amount of control over not only the Duchess, but people who interact with her; he treats the subjects of the play more like cattle than people, as shown in the line “the bough of cherries some officious fool/Broke in the orchard for her” shows the disdain the Duke has for those who step out of line. The politics of control are distinctly one sided in Browning’s picture of Ferrara, and we receive our information from a biased source.The Duke is presented as a self-aggrandizing character, often accrediting himself with achievements in order to extend his own image, indicated by his supposed “gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name” placing himself on a pedestal of importance, grating himself an inflated sense of power, with which to exert his will over others. His insight into her apparent conflation of his gift “With anybody’s gift” perpetuates the idea that he is above all others, whilst also vilifying the characters who stand against him. The fact that the prose is delivered from the Duke, who has been established to be a biased and flawed character, showcases the justification that people in positions of complete political control apply to their ideology.In Browning’s seminal work, “Porphyria’s Lover”, he discusses the power dynamics between man and woman, or more generally, between two lovers. The pathetic fallacy of the “sullen wind” and “rain set early” creates a feeling of isolation and lack of warmth, which is sharply juxtaposed with Porphyria’s entrance, as “She shut the cold out and the storm” and “made the cheerless grate/Blaze up” which serves as a metaphor for the light and warmth that Porphyria presents to the reader’s life, and love in more general terms.
Porphyria fulfils the societal role that woman in the nineteenth century were expected to fill, with common sentiment being that “the wife is truly the light of the home” , and so her character would resonate with Browning’s audience, making the reader’s betrayal of her goodwill all the more shocking and potent.The poem quickly takes a dark turn, and Browning quickly delves into the struggle between emotional, sexual control and physical control. Porphyria is described as “Murmuring how she loved me” yet “Too weak” in quick succession, creating a torn and divided feeling, rather like the reader is deliberating on his opinion and judgement of Porphyria. When he reaches his conclusion, he is self-described as “Happy and proud” and “In one long yellow string I wound/Three times her little throat around” in order to murder Porphyria.
In Browning’s narrative, physical prowess defeats emotional control, and the politics of control have become removed from an intellectual standpoint, and have escalated much like that of “My Last Duchess”, albeit with more consideration.Following the murder of Porphyria, the narrative returns to a happier tone, creating an uneasy atmosphere, as the narrator seems to have restored the balance of power through the murder of Porphyria. He describes her body, “Laughed the blue eyes without a stain” and the narrative seems unwilling to accept the reality of the situation, saying that “her cheek once more Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss” implying a sense of life, despite the fact that the narrator has just taken her life.
Browning juxtaposes the death of Porphyria and the happiness of the narrator, as “the smiling rosy little head” of Porphyria “droops” upon their shoulder. With the narrator having overcome the intense sexual and emotional battle between the two, Browning’s description of Porphyria has once again become adoring, as the conflict, while ending in a violent and fatal manner, has restored the power dynamics between the two characters that were present at the beginning of the poem.Browning’s discussion of the politics of control become present in many of his poems, with Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess being prime examples of such. “The Patriot”, however, uses literary devices such as nostalgia, and intertwines an unmistakable feeling of wistfulness, to describe a once powerful and influential character’s fall from grace and, ultimately, power. From the opening of the poem, the narrator is found reminiscing, saying that “It was roses, roses, all the way” which evokes positive imagery, yet the use of “it was” informs the reader that such times, and such positive environments, have passed.
Browning breathes life into the world that the narrator once inhabited, saying that “The church-spires flamed, such flags they had, a year ago on this very day” The imagery of flags flying over churches evokes a real sense of patriotism, combining the power of the church as an institution and the metaphorical power of a flag, yet the use of “a year ago” again serves to inform the reader that such control, through both patriotism and perhaps religion, has faded.Browning continues, giving the titular patriot a voice within the narrative; the patriot uses this voice to command the subjects of the poem, saying “Good folk, mere noise repels—But give me your sun from yonder skies!”They had answered, “And afterward, what else?” By having the Patriot demanding “your sun” from the subjects of the poem, and having them respond in a questioning manner implicitly creates a power dynamic weighted in the favour of the Patriot; he not only commands the people, but they come to him for answers. Here, Browning presents the Patriot as a voice of reason for the people, highlighting the extremely weight dynamic between the two.Much like the Duke of My Last Duchess, the narrator of The Patriot is very much convinced of his own greatness, “Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun, to give it my loving friends to keep!” Here however, the Patriot views himself as a medium through which to serve the people, as opposed to the Duke who lived to serve himself.
The referring of the people as “my loving friends” implies a far more balanced dynamic than was previously thought. The use of “Alack” creates a sense of remorse, as Browning employs the literary device of wistfulness, making the loss of power, and the dramatic shift in power all the more poignant for the reader. Browning’s portrayal of the politics of control here is far more balanced and nuanced: Instead of a powerful dictator exercising unjust power, the narrative voice of the patriot reminisces, using positive and powerful imagery to evoke the notion of a better time.Browning continues to paint the Patriot as a sympathetic character; his loss of power and control is coupled with an overwhelming sense of isolation and fear. “There’s nobody on the house-tops now—Just a palsied few at the windows set” The use of the verb “palsied” implies a paralysing fear, perhaps of the Patriot himself, or of the loss of life that has been previously detailed. “Shambles’ Gate” describes a public hanging, and the Patriot describes “For the best of the sight is, all allow, at the Shambles’ Gate-” Here, Browning shifts the tone dramatically. The Patriot has changed from a respected and admired character, seemingly in control of the people, into someone that the people wish to witness the execution of. “The best of sight” implies that the hanging of the Patriot is not only necessary, but that the people witnessing his execution are actively searching for a higher level of catharsis from his execution, serving to demonstrate the extreme contrast between the Patriot’s previous control and his current life.
The sympathetic portrayal of the loss of control and power reaches a climax in the fifth stanza. Here, Browning goes into painstaking detail to convey the humiliation felt by the Patriot at the hands of the people he once seemingly adored and commanded. “I go in the rain… A rope cuts both my wrists behind” implying that the rope is tied too tightly, bringing a sense of