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Before getting into a discussion of Browning’s ‘Meeting at Night’ it is important to gain a greater understanding of how Browning wrote. With this in mind one is more easily able to pull out recognizable or important themes.
Today Browning is known primarily as a master of the dramatic monologue. Works categorized as dramatic monologues are spoken told from the mind of a single character who is not the poet. This person might interact with others, but it is only their perspective the reader receives. While ‘Meeting at Night’ is not exactly a dramatic monologue it does contain elements of this form in its single speaker and perspective.
As was common with Browning’s work, there are a number of important themes within the work, ’Night’ or ‘Meeting at Night.’ One of the most prominent of these is that of man with, and against, the natural world. The speaker of this piece is on a journey through a landscape that does not always work in his favour. Getting to his lover in the farm-house is not an easy task. He must sail for an unknown distance through the sea, land on a beach and cross fields all under the cover of darkness. In this instance it seems as if the landscape, and nature at large, is not for or against the speaker’s quest. While he is not assisted in any way, he is also not unduly deterred.
The next two themes that come to mind go hand in hand: love and perseverance. These are of course large and wide-ranging words. They could be applied to a number of different situations. In this case though, they truly are connected. If the speaker wants to continue his experiences with love, he must persevere through the night to arrive at his meeting. Love is what drives him, but perseverance keeps him going when the journey becomes more difficult.
It is also interesting to note that the speaker is the one who is carrying the weight of perseverance. As the man, he is allowed to venture beyond the confines of his home and visit the woman he loves. The woman is stuck though. She is unable to physically act on her desire to spend more time with her lover, she must wait for him to come to her.