The convent threshold is a story about a female who is talking to her lover, asking him to repent along with her but also about her struggle to repent herself. This gives us the indication that they have both sinned, so maybe had some kind of sexual relationship with each other. The title of the poem indicates that she is going into a convent however indications within the poem make us question whether or not she is on her death bed. Firstly, Rossetti uses a female voice who is addressing her lover. So the poem is written in first person.
This gives us a completely one sided account to the story. We don’t know how the man she is addressing is feeling. The use of this first person narrative is supposed to make us sympathise with the narrator. Rossetti wants us to know what this female is feeling and doesn’t want us to know what anyone else in the poem is thinking or feeling. Rossetti also uses her choice of language in the poem very wisely in order to tell this story. She uses quite a few biblical references such as the stairway to heaven, “stairs that mount above”, and the “sea of glass”.
In line 4 where she says “I choose the stairs that mount above” tells us that she is possibly on her death bed and making her way to heaven. It also makes us question whether it has been suicide because of the way she says that she chooses those stairs. She follows on from her biblical references to say “my lily feet are soiled with mud”. This could be her telling us of her sin, they reason she is repenting. We know that she is addressing her lover, so the use of this symbolism tells us that she is no longer ‘innocent’ and it indicates to us that the sin she is repenting is in fact a sexual relationship with her lover outside of marriage.
She also repeats the word “blood” quite a lot in the poem, which could be another biblical reference, but could also be another indication that she is either dead or dying. The setting of the poem is unclear. We aren’t quite sure whether it is set in a convent, crossing the threshold of the convent, on her death bed or purgatory. She says to her lover, “your eyes look earthward, mine look up”, this line makes us think that she is on the death bed. The way she says that her eyes look up makes the readers think that she might be lying down looking up towards heaven and that his eyes are looking down at her.
Line 16 is the beginning of her asking him to repent with her where she says “mount with me, mount the kindled stair. ” This may also mean that she wants him to go to heaven with her because she is struggling to repent her sins. Because she is struggling, she doesn’t want to give him up so she is asking him to go with her wherever it may be that she is going. Line 65, “only my lips still turn to you” also tells us that she is finding it hard to repent because she is still enjoying earthly pleasures.