Imagery and Symbolism in The Last Ride Together
Discuss the use of imagery and symbolism in The Last Ride Together. How do specific images and symbols enhance the understanding of the narrator’s emotions and desires?
Imagery and Symbolism in The Last Ride Together by Robert Browning
Imagery and symbolism play a crucial role in Robert Browning‘s poem “The Last Ride Together.” Through vivid and evocative descriptions, Browning employs these literary devices to enhance the understanding of the narrator’s emotions and desires. This essay will explore the use of imagery and symbolism in the poem, analyzing specific images and symbols that contribute to the reader’s interpretation of the narrator’s emotional journey.
I. The Imagery of Nature:
Nature imagery is prominent in “The Last Ride Together” and serves as a powerful backdrop to the narrator’s emotions. Browning’s vivid descriptions of the natural world evoke a sense of beauty, transience, and emotional intensity.
- The Green and White Imagery:
Browning uses the imagery of green and white to depict the lushness and vibrancy of nature. In lines 20-21, he describes the ride as “o’er bank and bush, / O’er bramble and pine, / One wide wave of green, one white spray of May.” This imagery creates a visual contrast between the vibrant green landscape and the purity and freshness of the white blossoms. The juxtaposition of these colors conveys the narrator’s heightened emotions and his desire to fully experience the joy of the moment.
- The Imagery of Sun and Shade:
Browning employs imagery related to sunlight and shade to convey the fluctuating emotions of the narrator. He describes the ride as passing “from morning into noon” (line 82), signifying a transition from darkness to light. This imagery represents the narrator’s shift from despair to hope, from the shadows of rejection to the possibility of happiness. The interplay between sunlight and shade reflects the emotional journey of the narrator, highlighting his evolving state of mind.
II. Symbolism in “The Last Ride Together”:
Symbolism in the poem enriches the reader’s understanding of the narrator’s emotions and desires. Browning employs various symbols that represent key themes and concepts within the poem.
- The Ride:
The ride itself serves as a central symbol in the poem. It represents the journey of life, the fleeting moments of togetherness, and the pursuit of happiness. The ride symbolizes the transient nature of love and the impermanence of human relationships. Through the ride, Browning conveys the message that individuals must embrace the present moment and make the most of the time they have together.
- The Caged Bird:
The caged bird is a powerful symbol in “The Last Ride Together.” The narrator compares himself to a bird trapped in a cage, longing for freedom. He states, “I sit here alone / And sing aloud for them that ever pass / And wonder how they look upon my cage” (lines 60-62). The caged bird represents the narrator’s desire to break free from the constraints of societal norms and expectations. It symbolizes his longing for liberation and the pursuit of happiness despite the limitations placed upon him.
- The Torch-Bearers:
The torch-bearers symbolize societal expectations and influences that surround the narrator and his beloved. In the poem, the narrator reflects on the presence of torch-bearers who surround their steps in the noontide (lines 101-102). The torch-bearers represent the judgment and scrutiny of others, the social norms that dictate the course of relationships. The presence of these torch-bearers highlights the pressure and external forces that shape the narrator’s decisions and choices.
- The Day/Night Imagery:
Throughout the poem, Browning employs imagery and symbolism related to day and night to convey the narrator’s emotional state. Day symbolizes hope, joy, and the possibility of happiness. Night, on the other hand, represents darkness, despair, and the fear of rejection. The contrast between day and night reflects the narrator’s emotional journey, as he transitions from moments of despair to glimpses of hope and acceptance.
III. The Emotional Impact of Imagery and Symbolism:
The imagery and symbolism employed by Browning in “The Last Ride Together” significantly enhance the reader’s understanding of the narrator’s emotions and desires.
- Evoking Intense Emotions:
The vivid nature imagery evokes intense emotions, capturing the heightened emotional state of the narrator. The green and white imagery, along with the imagery of sunlight and shade, amplifies the emotional intensity of the moment. The reader can feel the narrator’s longing, desire, and fleeting sense of happiness through Browning’s evocative descriptions.
- Portraying the Transience of Love:
The symbolism of the ride encapsulates the transience of love and the impermanence of human relationships. It highlights the fleeting nature of joy and togetherness. The reader witnesses the narrator’s realization that the ride is the last opportunity for connection, and this realization intensifies the emotions and desires expressed throughout the poem.
- Reflecting Societal Constraints and Expectations:
The symbolism of the caged bird and the torch-bearers reflects the societal constraints and expectations that impact the narrator’s emotions and desires. The caged bird symbolizes his longing for freedom from societal norms, while the torch-bearers represent the judgment and scrutiny imposed by others. These symbols deepen the reader’s understanding of the internal and external forces that influence the narrator’s journey and his ultimate acceptance of his circumstances.
In “The Last Ride Together,” Robert Browning effectively utilizes imagery and symbolism to enhance the reader’s understanding of the narrator’s emotions and desires. The vivid nature imagery, such as the green and white imagery and the interplay between sunlight and shade, evokes intense emotions and conveys the narrator’s emotional journey. The symbolism of the ride, the caged bird, the torch-bearers, and the day/night imagery enriches the reader’s interpretation by representing key themes and concepts within the poem. Through these literary devices, Browning provides a layered and nuanced exploration of love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships, leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s understanding of the narrator’s emotional and psychological state.
Written by Koushik Kumar Kundu
Koushik Kumar Kundu was among the toppers when he completed his Masters from Vidyasagar University after completing his Bachelors degree with Honours in English Literature from The University of Burdwan. He also completed B.Ed from the University of Burdwan.
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