The Dilemma of Falling in Love

In “Sonnet 32”, Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes from the female perspective about being hesitant to enter into a relationship. Instead of a traditional love poem about completely and blindly devoting your life to another person, the speaker of this poem has reservations about entering into a relationship. This poem gives the overall impression that love is something that is delicate and does not last but changes with time. For example, she writes “quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe.” The woman in the poem fears loving this man completely because she compares herself to an “out-of-tune worn viol.” This complicates the poem because she does not think she is worthy of him. It reveals her insecurities that he may leave her because he will be unsatisfied in their relationship. Since she is criticizing herself it seems like she wants to have love, but fears she does not deserve this man or that is will not work between them.

This poem is about a woman who is not ready for love because it “seemed too soon.” She still has fears of losing love in the future so she pushes this man away. This mirrors Elizabeth’s own relationship with Robert, she rejected his first marriage proposal because she was not ready to defy and leave her family for a man. I think this poem has a satirical world view because the woman in this poem has a skeptical tone toward loving this man. Since this poem stands out from other traditional love poems, I think Browning may be satirizing society’s expectation of women to fall completely in love in an all-or-nothing manner.

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