In Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, Aurora mourns the loss of her father on multiple levels. The loss of her only parent (her mother having passed away when Aurora was only four years old) results in a sense of solitude and self-inflicted isolation that pervades Aurora's life. After Aurora initially rejects her Cousin Romney's marriage proposal, this feeling of solitude increases; Aurora fully realizes the magnitude of her isolation. Her father can no longer comfort nor guide her, and she alone must take responsibility for what the future holds. This reality stuns and wounds Aurora as she comes to terms with Romney's disappointment, her aunt's wrath, and her own decision that "help/ Must come to me from those who love me not" (Book II, ll 804-805). Thus Aurora laments the loss of her father's guidance and the utter loneliness she believes she must forever endure.
I had a father! Yes, but long ago —
How long it seemed that moment. Oh, how far,
How far and safe, God, dost thou keep thy saints
When once gone from us! We may call against
The lighted windows of thy fair June-heaven
Where all the souls are happy, — and not one,
Not even my father, look from work or play
To ask, "Who is it that cries after us,
Below there, in the dusk?" Yet formerly
He turned his face upon me quick enough,
If I said "father." Now I must cry loud;
The little lark reached higher with his song
Than I with crying. Oh, alone, alone, —
Not troubling any in heaven, nor any on earth,
I stood there in the garden, and looked up
The deaf blue sky that brings the roses out
On such June mornings. [Book 2, ll 734-50]
1. What does this passage say about Aurora's faith in God and outlook on religion? What are the implications of the fact that she believes her father is a saint who resides in "thy fair June-heaven" but cannot or does not hear Aurora's cries?
2. Discuss the use of nature imagery within the passage. How do such images as the "little lark" or the "deaf blue sky" add to Aurora's cries?
3. At the conclusion of the novel, Aurora gives up her self-dependency and solitude to finally marry Romney. What has changed that has allowed Aurora to change her mind and consent to a life of co-dependency with Romney?
4. How much is Aurora's desire for independence and isolation a result of her father's death? How much of it is simply her own stubborn will and personality?
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. Aurora Leigh. Chicago: Academy, 1989.
Last modified 22 March 2004