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Themes in Worn Out
Love as Martyrdom: The speaker continually emphasizes that she wants to leave the relationship, but not for her own sake. She wants to leave because she believes she is not good enough for her partner. Even though leaving clearly hurts, she wants her partner to be in a more worthy relationship. She acts as a martyr by sacrificing herself for the sake of another, by hurting her heart so that her partner can be happy.
The Dangers of Love: The speaker mentions being “struck” by both love and betrayal. In both cases, the connotation of “struck” is negative. The person either falls obsessively in love with another or is betrayed and “struck” with all the hurt that accompanies it. In both cases, love is seen as dangerous or violent.
Themes Examples in Worn Out:
"weep..." See in text (Worn Out )
The tension between the speaker’s command to “leave me” and “weeping” over her lover leaving suggests that this is not actually what the speaker wants; it is a form of martyrdom. She encourages her lover to leave not because she wants him out of her life; rather, she believes she is unable to love him the way he deserves. The poem then serves as a type of apology in which the speaker encourages her lover to walk away and inadvertently (or intentionally) reveals her selfless love for him in the process.
"struck me down..." See in text (Worn Out )
This line can be interpreted as having two meanings. She either invokes medieval imagery of love at first sight, in which a person struck by Cupid’s arrow becomes irrevocably, obsessively in love with a love object. She could also be describing a betrayal that “struck her” when she felt safely in love. In either reading, Love is characterized as violent and dangerous.
"strong arms..." See in text (Worn Out )
“Strong arms” is a characteristic that invokes masculine gender norms. Because of Siddal’s interest in medieval literary themes, descriptions such as this one suggest that the speaker sees her audience through the lens of the medieval romance: he is a strong knight who is there to save her, the endangered damsel.