Aurora Leigh often questions the meanings of life and love. Aurora suggests that the two things are interdependent and perhaps analogous, when she states that “whoever lives true life, will love true love” (1.1067). Aurora’s views of both life and love seem to diverge from those around her. She suggests that her aunt lives a “cage-bird life,” which is not really “life” at all. She later refuses to marry a man who sees marriage as a partnership of workers. The following speech comes from a conversation between Marian and Aurora, when they discuss their responses to Romney’s marriage proposals. Marian says,

If marriage be a contract, look to it then,
Contracting parties should be equal, just;
But if, a simple fealty on one side
A mere religion, — right to give, is all,
And certain brides of Europe duly ask
To mount the pile, as Indian widows do,
The spices of their tender youth heaped up,
The jewels of their gracious virtues worn,
More gems, more glory, — to consume entire
For a living husband! As the man’s alive,
Not dead, — the woman’s duty, by so much
Advanced in England, beyond Hindostan.

Questions

1. Here, is Marian’s notion of “marriage as contract” completely antithetical to Aurora’s notion of love, or are there subtle similarities between the outlooks of the two women?

2. How does Marian’s reference to the Hindu woman enforce the notion that “a death-heat is the same as a life-heat…and in all nature is no death at all” (2.288-9)? Are there multiple implications to the “pile” which the Indian widow mounts?


Victorian Overview E. B. Browning

Last modified 21 March 2003