Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

The theme of desire and frustration in Rossetti’s “A Pause of Thought”

The first impression I got after reading the Rossetti’s poem “A Pause of Thought” is that it is quite related to or even seems to embody the idea of ‘five stages of grief’ which was invented by Kubler-Ross. In conjunction with this first impression, I understood that the poem is not only dealing with the theme of love but also could be seen to covering more broad range, encompassing the theme of desire, aspiration and frustration people get to experience in their life. Especially, the ‘mechanical’ terms such as “the object”, “chase” aids to form the neutral tone of the poem.

On the other hand, the repeated pattern of longing and frustration plays an important role over the poem. I think there exists double-sidedness in the mind of the narrator in that she-supposedly, because of the voice/tone of the narration-shows intense desire while not putting those desires into action. Given the restricted gender norms and roles of the Victorian era, it seems quite progressive that a woman makes her own choice-from about whom to love to what to achieve-no matter what emotional burden she has to bear, although it does not lead to certain actions in the case. Although it almost always ends with the frustration, one should have expectations in order to be frustrated by something. Also, in the process, there are specific transitional words that marks the alternating state of mind. The repetition of “but” or “yet” in first, third, fourth stanza and the use of “again” in the last stanza shows the hesitancy of the narrator despite of her realization of hopelessness. Although she seems to give up on hope of achieving one’s goal(or love) as the process goes on, the poem finally ends with “again”, implying that despite all the unstable emotions love and expectation gives us, the whole process of love and desire will repeat itself again and again, regressing back to the first moment of the poem.

1 Comment

  1. I like how you point out the fact that Rossetti is very progressive for Victorian society. When comparing her poems to all of the other texts in the class (LAS, The Hound, Dracula, etc.), Rossetti is, in my opinion, without a doubt the most unapologetic about her gender. In the poem that you have analyzed, “A Pause of Thought,” and in her others (“No, Thank You, John,” “Echo,” “The World,” “Goblin Market,” etc.) Rossetti asserts that women can feel desire the same way that men do; and with that, she also suggests that women deserve agency, and independent-mindedness in society. It would be interesting to see what critics thought of this poem and others.

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