As in the other sonnets from this volume, Sonnet 24’s most prominent theme is love. In the third line, the speaker capitalizes the word to underline its significance. For the speaker, love is so important that it deserves to be treated as a proper noun—like a person. She believes that love can protect her husband and herself from the cruel words and deeds of harmful people. In addition, she believes that God is the source of all love and that only He can decide her fate—not another person.
The sonnet initially focuses on the speaker’s earthly experiences—notably, her relationship with her husband and the rest of the world. However, the mention of God near the sonnet’s conclusion makes it clear that she believes her life is governed by a divine being. While self-serving people may try to harm her with their deeds and words, she believes in God’s love and believes He ultimately decides what happens to mankind.
The speaker makes ambiguous references to pain and opposition throughout the sonnet. From the outset, she uses the knife as a metaphor to symbolize anything that might threaten the love relationship she shares with her husband. She wishes to protect them from the harshness of the world, which may stem from hurtful people. It is not completely clear if such opposition refers to people’s judgment or actual physical harm that people cause one another (through war, genocide, and the like). In any case, the speaker resists this opposition and finds solace in love.
Sonnet 24 (Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife) Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for Sonnet 24 (Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife)
Sonnet 24 (Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife) study guide contains a biography of Elizabeth Browning, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.