Carol Ann Duffy Poems
Can Carol Ann Duffy’s “Little Red Cap” Be Classified as a Fairy Tale?
Most of us have a clear perception of what fairy tales are, or what we assume them to be. Over the past century, these tales have been burdened with so many clichés, such as evil queens’ curses and damsels-in-distress, that we tend to identify them based on the presence of such clichés. The fairy tale scholar Kate Bernheimer suggests that when trying to determine what a fairy tale is, clichéd themes play an insignificant role. According to her, a fairy tale’s most distinctive qualities are its underdeveloped characters, nonsensical logic and lack of description. Her aesthetic and unrestricted definition allows broad interpretation of what constitutes a fairy tale. However, since most popular fairy tales do seem to consistently share certain formal characteristics, such as a narrative structure, simple imagery and superficial characters, it is easy to assume that if a tale does not follow a similar outline then it is not a fairy tale. “Little Red Cap” is an autobiographical poem, by Carol Ann Duffy, which presents a female perspective on Little Red Riding Hood whilst outlining Duffy’s relationship with an older man. Often, people do not identify it as a fairy tale because it lacks several features that fairy tales are commonly associated with. In “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale,” Bernheimer states that the four “formal components (though there are others) comprise the hard logic of tales” (64). By adding “though there are others” in brackets, she allows modification of her definition. Through examining it through the lens of Bernheimer’s ideas, I will show that “Little Red Cap” by Carol Ann Duffy is a fairy tale.
Flatness is the first aspect Bernheimer listed as an identifying feature of fairy tales, and Duffy uses this technique as well, albeit limitedly. Flatness refers to the “absence of depth” (Bernheimer 66) in characters which allows readers to engage with the text. According to Bernheimer, flatness is used so that the audience can be more engaged and imagine certain character attributes. Duffy, however, uses flatness for metaphorical reasons. For example, the grandmother could be considered a flat character since she is only mentioned once: “I took an axe to the wolf as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones” (Duffy 4). She is a symbol rather than a personality; the phrase “virgin white of my grandmother’s bones” is a metaphor for the generations of women who have been oppressed by men. “Glistening virgin white of my grandmother’s bones” denotes that all the oppressed women have been free and regain their pride. Therefore, Duffy’s poem uses flatness to allow people to engage with the text by allowing them to relate to it. Although “Little Red Cap” does not use this technique exactly as Bernheimer described, it does successfully use flatness to promote audience engagement.
Although Duffy does not use the same approach that Bernheimer describes, her poem achieves the same goal that fairytales do. Bernheimer lists “flatness” as one of the key aspects of a fairy tale since “it allows depth of response in the reader” (67). The assumption underlying her claim here is that one of the features of fairytales is that it allows deep responses from readers, which Duffy’s poem also does. Firstly, the allegorical nature of this poem allows readers to interpret the man, on whom the “wolf” is based, in their own manner. Duffy provides her audience with the choice to either read the story superficially or delve into the underlying meanings and explore the characters on a more personal level. Secondly, the poem uses imagery to invite a reflective response from the audience. For instance, the descriptive lines “I crawled in his wake, my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer…I lost both shoes but got there” (3) exemplify Duffy’s use of intricate imagery and complex syntax in order to invoke a response in the reader. This sequence of events outlines Little Red Cap’s journey throughout the poem: she falls for a dominant lover, the relationship strips her of her innocence, she kills the wolf and loses the last shred of her purity, but is able to free herself. This is just one of the many interpretations hidden within “Little Red Cap”. Although Bernheimer states that flatness provokes a deep response, Duffy does the same through her well-rounded poem.
Bernheimer declares that in fairy tales, “things happen that have no relevance apart from the effect of language” (68), and the same applies for Duffy’s “Little Red Cap”. Fairy tales generally use intuitive logic to create an uncomplicated story which doesn’t encourage readers to question the events that transpire. In contrast, Duffy’s version uses the technique to encourage deeper understanding of the work. In the poem, the protagonist “took an axe to a willow to see how it wept” and “took an axe to the wolf as he slept” (Duffy 4). This statement is an example of nonsensical syntax in the poem. First Little Red Cap was talking about how life with the wolf was becoming monotonous, as he grew older, and then suddenly she was talking about cutting things open as well as killing the wolf. The willow and salmon have no significance to the story of “Little Red Cap” but is important in terms of language. A salmon is often seen as a symbol of determination. Here, Duffy wonders how far she would go to get out of the situation. Not only does the rhyming pattern of “wept”, “leapt” and “slept” enhance the momentum of the story, but it also foreshadows the violent turn that the story is going to take. The symbolism and use of rhyme shows the effect of language. Through using intuitive logic to prioritize the effect of language, Duffy’s poem adheres to Bernheimer’s definition of a fairy tale.
Bernheimer believes that in a fairy tale is a story which “enters and haunts you deeply” (68), and Duffy’s poem does this through its nature. Unlike most versions of Little Red Riding Hood which focus on unrealistic events, this poem presents a situation that many readers have faced. In the poem, Duffy gives a voice to the protagonist who has been silenced. This is especially relatable for women who have been in relationships with men who don’t understand or listen to their opinions. Moreover, Duffy shows that the romance and adventure of a new relationship fades with time, and this is something that many adult readers can associate with. In addition to this, the poem also suggests that Duffy’s creativity and poetic talent were suppressed during this time. The violent and sexual nature of the poem, and the haunting images that Duffy paints through her unique poem definitely constitutes a story which haunts you deeply.
Throughout the book “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale”, Bernheimer makes statements that are not explicitly included in her definition of what constitutes a fairy tale, but are indeed aspects of fairy tales. By examining these statements carefully, we can modify Bernheimer’s definition and adapt it to describe the modern retellings of classic fairy tales. Duffy’s “Little Red Cap” utilizes flatness and intuitive logic, two of the four components Bernheimer listed in her book, and fulfills the same goals as fairy tales. Hence, “Little Red Cap” adheres to the unrestricted definition and is classified a fairy tale.
Bernheimer, Kate. Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale. 2014.
Duffy, Carol Ann. “Little Red Cap.” The World’s Wife. Print. London: Picador, 2000, pp. 3-4
The Presentation of Suffering in “Remains” and “War Photographer”
Within Remains, Simon Armitage, who is widely known for focusing on physiological health and for creating a documentary of young soldier in the height of the conflict occurring in Afghanistan, presents the theme of suffering through the personal view of a young, regimented soldier, by sharing a scene which had clearly left a pit of guilt and had caused physiological health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is because he the man he “and somebody else and somebody else” shot a man who was raiding a bank, however he was “possibly armed, possibly not” which has sparked uncertainty in the soldier’s mind, filling him with guilt as he may have shot an innocent man. Comparatively, Carol Ann Duffy, a social critic and holder of the title of Poet Laureate, conveyed suffering by focusing on the memories and flashbacks that a photographer experienced whilst developing his photos “in his darkroom” that he had taken during the wars. The war photographer clearly makes an experienced attempt at detaching himself from the “hundred agonies in black-and-white” so he can focus on the work at hand as a desperate coping mechanism, however a certain memory weaves its way to the front of his mind as he remembers “the cries of this man’s wife” and reconnects with a very important moment for the woman – her husband’s death.
Symbolism is used by Simon Armitage within Remains to describe the way “this looter” was haunting the soldier’s memory and was appearing everywhere, effectively ensuring that the young soldier wouldn’t even be able to enter “the doors of the bank” without entering a living flashback. The soldier’s memories of the bank appear to represent a bursting river bank, where the sweeping current of his memories are too strong to compress at the sight of the bank he regularly visits for his own use because his immense war experiences have impacted his mind so much so that anything holding the slightest resemblance to his regimented past will bring the memories flooding back. The ex-soldier seems to be suffering from PTSD after a horrific incident which left him wondering if he had murdered an innocent man with “somebody else and somebody else”, or if the soldiers had been correct and killed somebody who was potentially about to harm a lot of people. Repetition is also used earlier in the poem to describe the way there is no escape from the self-condemnation that the looter was “probably armed, possibly not”. Because the soldier cannot even sleep without nightmares of this man, it causing him to turn to self medication with “drink and [drugs]” and even that, still won’t “flush him out”. The fact alone that he is using “drink and [drugs]” show that the man is no longer in the army, whether he left of his own accord or not, the soldiers would have been regularly examined for these things, although they were not tested for mental health issues and so did not receive any help on this element. The alliteration used, further indicates a lack of support he received because he should have been talking to a therapist about his mental health issues, although 0.4% of military money goes towards the mental health of soldiers, making it unlikely his illness would be noticed. The way the soldier describes the “[looter]” as alive indicates that he lives on in his memory.
Furthermore, the metaphor Armitage uses to state how the dead man appears everywhere without exception conveys ideas that both the looter and the speaker were victims, although for different reasons. Because the man is “in [the soldier’s] mind when [he closes his] eyes”, it gives the impression that the mental health issues almost become something that’s utterly inescapable from.Colloquial language is also used by the soldier to describe how the soldier felt towards the shooting, feeling as if the victim’s “bloody life” ended because of his “bloody hands”. The adjective “bloody” that was used to describe the dead man’s life implies that the young man felt solely responsible for “[ripping] through [the looter’s] life” and killing him. The grief he feels is reflected in his mental health issues, another of which could be OCD. The soldier could literally imagine the man’s blood on his hands again and have caused his own hands to be bloody because he’s washed them so much that he’s torn the skin. A living scar is something his mental illnesses could be seen as, almost as if it were branded into his skin that he killed this man. The grief cursing through the soldier’s body forces him to constantly ask himself if he’s a murderer which could be why repetition of the adjective “bloody” is used. The idea of monotony and repetition causes thoughts that mean the speaker relives the event “again” and “again” and “again”. This adverb indicates that there’s no escape from the thoughts and by naming the dead man simply as a “looter”, it implies that the soldier’s thoughts can’t be put to rest because this man is identified and anonymous, meaning that he can’t visit his grave or apologise which only makes more regret surface. The dead man was “left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land or six-feet-under in desert sand” which offered no peace for the speaker because he could not even be certain that the man he killed had even had a proper burial. The sibilance creates an effect that draws attention to the quote, implying ideas of discontent and no closure, meaning that the dead man will forever be haunting his mind and causing him health issues because he can’t be “[flushed] out”.
This contrasts to the “half-formed ghost” that “[starts] to twist” before the subject’s eyes in War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy, because although the metaphor also holds no detail in the “stranger’s features” (conveying ideas of anonymity and a death that resembles the hundreds of others that the photographer has witnessed), the permanent stain of life that remains from “blood stained into foreign dust” allows the photographer to revisit the deathbed of the innocent man if he searched enough and wished to. However, despite the fact that the photographer could pay a visit to the place this took place, he walked away because it happened elsewhere, although the memories were things he was unable to leave in the foreign country, along with the mental marks of war. The metaphor also implies that the blood of the innocent man had literally soaked into the ruined ground like an irremovable tattoo of life.Duffy also uses sibilance, symbolism and juxtaposition to describe how the spools of photographs morph into “spools of suffering [are] set out in ordered rows”. The rows suggest a clear military link, representing the “ordered rows” soldiers would report to in the army, which is symbolism as it serves as a form of order within fields of chaos. A graveyard could also be interpreted as the “ordered rows”, symbolising the huge loss of life and happiness that occurs throughout war. The sibilance in the powerful phrase “spools of suffering” validates ideas of life loss and the rows and rows of it show the small segment of it that James Nachtwey has captured in his spools of film. The quote also contains the juxtaposition of ideas that suffering is everywhere, thrown around in unorganised chaos, making everything violent and forcing innocent people to suffer, whilst being logically laid out in “ordered rows” like the armies that attempt to prevent and stop the wars.
James Nachtwey is the war photographer being described. His aim was to capture and show to the world the true horrors of war, disprove the propaganda, show how many innocent women, men, children and families were being caught up in the loss and suffering. He wanted his work to inspire and support families affected by war, making his photographs an “antidote to war” and a way of “negotiating peace”. His photos are a “protest to help other people join the protest” against war and propaganda. Nachtwey is aware that people see his work, and proceed to ignore it, or not do anything about it. He is aware that “they do not care” and simply continue with their daily lives, choosing to be ignorant and naive towards the real horrors of war that is masked by propaganda. This is partially because his editor will “pick out five or six” from “a hundred agonies in black-and-white” which show the least suffering, but still he continues to board “the aeroplane [where] he stares impassively at where he earns his living”. The metaphor used to describe the amount of suffering and agony found in Nachtwey’s photographs of war elicits ideas that the photographer is “alone” in a room filled with so much suffering, pain and death that he simply cannot detach himself anymore. The “black-and-white” photographs filled with “[agony]” implies that there were hundreds of lives that couldn’t escape from the war they shouldn’t have even been involved in. Enjambment is something Duffy also uses in the second stanza of her poem when stating how Nachtwey’s hands “did not tremble then/though seem to now”, which conveys feelings that when the photographer was surrounded by death, he could control and detach himself from his feelings towards the people dying in front of him because the camera acted as a shield, a protection against the real world so it almost seemed as if he wasn’t there in person. It portrays ideas of vulnerability when alone, as well as implying that true terror is felt when there is no support around, or nobody to see your act fall to pieces.
The colours and imagery used in the adjectives conjure images of truthfulness, because black and white are colours generally associated with raw, hard truths. It is also as if the room holds its own hundreds of memories of war, which is why it depicts such emotions of vulnerability of the unarmoured, alone photographer. Because Nachtwey was alone, it meant he couldn’t detach from everything, he wasn’t protected from the violent memories being bombarded his way because he wasn’t ever protected from sounds by his lens, and although he hoped the memories of war and pain wouldn’t come home with him, they did because he “remembered the cries” of a wife that gave her wordless consent for her husband to be photographed in his last dying seconds.
“After I no longer speak”; A Message on the Impact of the Holocaust in “Shooting Stars”
Humans inflict suffering on other humans and when events are forgotten, they are repeated. In the poem “Shooting Stars,” Carol Ann Duffy tells a shocking story of a female prisoner held by Nazis in a concentration camp around the time of the Holocaust. This is a poem in which human suffering is being actively portrayed. Duffy uses a cryptic title together with effective imagery which explores the theme of human suffering. General connotation applied to the phrase “Shooting Stars” is that a star is falling or the beauty and brightness of fireworks representing women of the holocaust.
‘Shooting Stars’ is written in the perspective of a Jewish woman who was killed during the Holocaust. The woman speaks to another woman about the atrocities they had endured as Jewish people, and how despite all hardships, faith still remains. Structurally, the poem is in uniform. It has a title followed by six stanzas of four lines . The poem is also placed in the exact center of the page which may express the uniformity of the war. Immediately establishing darkness and horror in stanza one, Duffy begins the poem with “After I no longer speak.” This sets the readers off with a strong image of silence and death followed by even more horror, “they break our fingers.” Before using traditional Jewish names, she uses conflicting images of the wedding band, a symbol of eternal love, trust and profit through juxtaposition. This exposes the courage that the women went through with calmness when they faced death.
In the second stanza, Carol Ann Duffy addresses the women as “upright as statues.” This represents women as individuals who look straight ahead awaiting the bullet of death with courage. Intensifying the imagery of never ending violence, the repetition of the word ‘Remember’ impacts and addresses the reader personally. In addition, the repetition of ‘Remember’ echoes in our head like a guilty conscience, it may represent the last word of a human being in the hands of incompetent young men. The demand of the writer in this stanza is to remember the suffering losses because she does not want the world to forget. Therefore, if we forget and don’t change our ways, the world will be “forever bad”. With the persona of this poem being a victim of the holocaust, narrative given from the point of view of one of the sufferings allows the reader to appreciate the scale that inhumanity can inflict.
Starting off the fourth stanza with a contrast of “preparing to die” next to “a perfect April evening,” it sets the mood of a perfect evening while people are suffering and others smoking next to a dead man’s grave. The second last line of the fourth stanza includes the onomatopoeia ‘trickled’ which represent the urine trickling down his legs as his last amount of dignity. ‘Click’ and ‘trick’ represent the sounds of a gun. Perhaps, this is a ‘trick’ of pretending to shoot but using an empty bullet chamber while toying with the lives of those already suffering.
In the next stanza, Duffy consistently uses the word ‘after’ to describe that after the ‘immense suffering’, ‘terrible moans’ and the holocaust is over, people will go back to their normal lives before the holocaust and do the things that they normally do. She reminds us that the enormity of the holocaust has made little impact because in the present day, humans are still savouring the suffering of other people. Perhaps the purpose of Duffy adding “tea on the lawn” and “a boy washes his uniform” is to highlight and contrast the size of the horror by including civilized human activities. With ‘Sara ezra’ meaning we all forget too quickly, the action of shoveling soil is to represent humans covering up the past.
The Jewish victim is turning to God and trusting in him. ‘Turn thee unto me with mercy’ but even when the Jews ask for the rest of the world to be merciful, their wish has still not been granted. The poem ends on a notes of tragedy back inside the concentration camp. This emphasises the extent and immensity of this event, while even strong men are unable to tolerate the hardships that these women went through. The victim is desolate for she does not know where she is going.
In an attempt to offer both historical and human perspective, Carol Ann Duffy wrote this poem in order to show how much the Holocaust has impacted people severely, and others not at all. It also places emphasis on how powerful faith is, and despite so many hardships and atrocities people still keep faith. Even in the midst of horror, the persecuted can still believe that God is out there looking after them.
Looking at Something in a Fresh and Surprising Way: “Ode on a Grayson Urn” and “The Map Woman”
Tim Turnbull’s “Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn” celebrates Grayson Perry – a ceramic artist who stealthily comments on societal injustices and hypocrisies through his art. It, instead of criticizing, glorifies the lives of the group of young individuals in imitation of Perry, who is known for addressing and elevating disturbing ideas through beautiful means. Turnbull celebrates their youth, courage and rebellious nature – something that is often put down and made to seem destructive. Carol Ann Duffy’s “The Map Woman,” too, takes on an idea and approaches it in a surprising way. She takes the idea of nostalgia and makes it tangible – in the form of a map on a woman’s body. Duffy pairs an unlikely premise with detailed realism allowing the underlying metaphor to shine through: that we are forever marked by our past.
Turnbull’s ode revolves greatly around the themes of beauty and materialism and how they are perceived in today’s society. He finds beauty in their recklessness and materialistic natures. The lives of today’s youth, a never-ending cycle of obsessive vanities and ‘courageous’ actions, are elevated to a near regal status as is done with the ‘Queen’s highway’ that they often congregate on to create ‘bedlam’. The possibility of looking at beauty and materialism in a new and surprising way is very much present in their wild natures, as these ‘louts’ remain clad in ‘Burberry’. Although celebrated, the fact that these people who live on ‘crap estates’ are dressed in high-class clothing ironically suggests that their personalities and outfits are not genuine, but instead a façade they keep up to pretend everything is alright. The phrase ‘manque’ refers to young girls who have been unable to live up to their personal ambitions – Shirley Temple, an actress who rose to fame quite early on.
The language employed by Turnbull depicts how the young girls have been unable to fulfill their dreams and are now running around creating mayhem with the rest of the youth. Although their lives are in shambles, ‘they will stay out late forever, pumped on youth and ecstasy’. The youth of our society are referred to using exophoric references in order to represent how they are viewed by the older generation. This image forces the reader to look at the youths as individuals whose only desire is to burn a bit brighter, instantly portraying them in a different light than what we’re used to. These teens are maniacal in their obsessed vanities, and although these will no longer matter in the future, for now everything is perfectly okay. This is what Turnbull is trying to convey through his unexpected execution of their lives as ‘urban gyrator[ies]’ – these cycles are bonds that cannot be broken by society and that is the silver lining.
Duffy’s poem explores a new way of looking at your past as etched into your skin in the form of a map; it describes a haunting feeling of your past never leaving you alone. Although the past can be either constructive or destructive, it helps shape you as an individual, allowing you to identify who you are as a person. The extended metaphor of the woman’s ‘skin [as a] map of the town’ illustrates where she comes from. Her struggle to shed of this skin indicates how she is insistent on removing all traces of her past. The use of the words ‘birthmark’ and ‘tattoo’ provide a semblance a permanence that she is unable to escape; this burden is heavy to bear and she isn’t too keen on holding it up any longer.
This representation of the past as something that is a part of your skin is not quite expected; in fact, this skin is home to all the battles fought and all that is left behind. The ‘precise second skin’ implies that she is shaped by her past experiences and is attempting to combat her issues with this new ‘skin’ that she’s attempting to fit into. The images implying permanence – ‘birthmark, tattoo’ – are contrasted with several verbs that suggest growth and change: ‘grew’, ‘binged’, ‘slimmed’ and ‘begin’. It’s possible that this second skin of hers is an attempt to grow and change into something that is no longer her, something she wants to separate from her past. She is ‘anchored’ to her town, and regardless of all the ‘spong[ing]’ and ‘scrubb[ing]’ she cannot rid herself of her past. Her tangible past is not something that is easily escapable. Looking at one’s history, as something that is physical rather than emotional allows for a clearer approach to what this past holds. It acknowledges that the past is inescapable but it can be left behind – the physical imprints it leaves behind can be forgotten as you grow as an individual.
Turnbull’s and Duffy’s poems, although not too comparable, do share one aspect: looking at something in a fresh and surprising way. The two take ideas that are often regarded with contempt– the youth and horrible pasts – spinning them in a way that is often unlikely. Turnbull somewhat puts the lives of adolescents up on a pedestal, making it out to be something glorious when it is often something hideous in nature. Duffy, on the other hand, physicalizes the truths of a past that haunts the map woman.
Analyse how meaning is presented in Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Bees’
Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Bees’- through the extended metaphor of a swarm of bees used to represent the process of writing a poem- focuses on the capacity of words to excite and invigorate the reader and author alike. Indeed, poetry is presented as having an intrinsic richness throughout the poem that the speaker believes should be treasured and valued. This can be explained in terms of the personification of poetry as vibrant and dynamic throughout the poem- which, implies that the poem is in a certain sense ‘alive’ therefore deserves equal respect as a living thing.
Through the extended metaphor of a swarm of bees- Duffy hones into the element of surprise that is entailed by the writing process of a poem- as the words seem to come alive once written down. Such is demonstrated through Duffy’s use of syndetic lists throughout the poem, creating a sense of steady pace mirroring the writer’s desperation to formulate her stream of thought into sentences, one example of this being the catalogue of flowers in the opening stanza ‘daffodil, thistle, rose’. Indeed, the idyllic natural image suggests that the speaker’s poems seem to be blooming to life in front of her. Indeed, that the dangerous picture of a ‘thistle’ is framed by two flowers on the page is further evocative of poetry’s capacity to crush and appease any negativity in the speaker’s life. The form of enjambment is one frequently employed by the poet in order to convey the way in which poetry takes shape as the poet continues to write; and additionally might mirror the fluidity of the poem- with various readers distinguishing different meanings in its words. The alliterated plosive ‘b’ between lexis ‘brazen’, ‘besotted’ and ‘blurs’ in the opening stanza immediately characterizes the words as able to almost physically impact the reader, with use of dynamic verbs ascribed to the bees such as ‘dancing’ and ‘pervades’ further detailing the ways in which words can warp and change a person’s perspective on a certain topic. Such is demonstrated by the extended metaphor of a swarm of bees which continues throughout the poem- literally mirroring the process of words altering a reader’s perspective through conveying the image of insects representing words; one clearly unusual and unfamiliar to a reader. Another metaphor used is one describing the bees’ movements as ‘flawless, airy maps.’- used to suggest that writing will figuratively lead the reader on a journey; with the end stop and caesura suggesting that this journey will be utterly dictated by the material they are reading. Indeed, the diction choice ‘bees’ is one repeated throughout the poem- including in the title- suggesting that words are able to have power over a reader when they are least expecting it. This is mirrored in the uneven number of stanzas (3) and uneven lengths of these stanzas (4 lines, 5 lines, 4 lines) used to convey the constant state of surprise and wonder the reader resides in whilst met with unexpected emotions when reading a poem. Such is reflected in the repeated gutturals and assonance of the syndetic list ‘glide, gilded, glad, golden’ which seem to create the effect of words blending into one another; perhaps conveying the poet’s excitement in writing the poem, or the reader’s thirst to discover the secrets and messages within a poem whilst reading it. The repeated use of conjunctions throughout the poem such as ‘and’ and ‘so’ create a colloquial conversational tone, reflecting the personal and intimate relationship between the speaker and the verse that she writes; whilst also evoking the capacity of poetry to gradually change a reader’s life for the better.
Furthermore, Duffy is able to focus on the intrinsic value of poetry as something deserving of both respect and admiration. Such is demonstrated by the separation of lexis ‘wise’ by two hyphens; which is especially emphasized as it is the word that opens the third stanza, used to suggest that the knowledge and wisdom imparted by poetry should be preserved and considered extensively by the reader. Duffy’s lack of fixed rhyme scheme and use of free verse throughout the poem is able to imply that the value of poetry is dissimilar and perhaps superior to the value we place on any other things- and cannot metaphorically be placed into a box. The slant rhyme between ‘glide’ and ‘wise’ therefore is particularly interesting through breaking from such free verse, suggesting that the wisdom offered by poetry should be able to expand and grow over time. The closing couplet ends on the phrase ‘and honey is art.’ and the use of emphatic end stop paired with the perfect rhyme between ‘heart’ and ‘art’ conveys the central message of the speaker that poetry should be valued due to its ability to enrich human experience. The simplicity of the revelation especially due to its important structural positioning in the final line further reminds a reader to appreciate the beauty of verse after reading the poem. This is an idea further developed through the possessive pronoun ‘my’ attached to the bees which moves to inclusive pronoun ‘us’ in the final stanza, suggesting that the poet and the poetry cannot be distinguished from one another and are able to constantly add value to each other. The lexis ‘golden’- a word with connotations of wealth and treasure- is one repeated twice, reminding the reader that they should continue to treat poetry as if it had significant economic value, and to position these words in the central middle stanza further suggests that poetry has intrinsic central value despite what is actually written in it. Indeed, the meagre description attributed to the speaker is one overpowered by descriptions of the verse throughout the poem, which is further suggestive of verse’s capacity to utterly consume the mindset of the individual whilst reading it in a positive and exhilarating manner. Nonetheless, such value is not immediately offered to the reader, as demonstrated by the internal rhyme between ‘been deep’ and ‘bees’, paired with the asyndetic patterning of ‘in’ during the second stanza used to suggest that the value of the poetry is deeply hidden and must be sought out. Yet, we can understand the point being made that once such value is discovered in poetry; it remains irreplaceable; demonstrated through the antithesis created between the negative image of a ‘shadowed, busy heart’ and the vibrant natural imagery of the second stanza; implying that poetry can invigorate and repair damage and loss in human life with words’ intrinsic joys. Furthermore, the poet’s frequent use of punctuation paired with the logical use of three stanzas creates a reasoned and logical tone as the speaker refuses to be utterly swayed by the marvels at poetry due to her desire to teach and convey such beauty in rational terms to an audience.
To conclude, ‘Bees’, by Duffy, can be read as a testament to the irrefutable power of poetry to improve and enrich human experience through constantly providing new wonders and meaning that the poet encourages the reader to deeply cherish.
Prestige in ‘The Crown’
In ‘The Crown’, Carol Ann Duffy explores the prestige and catalogue of duties entailed by queenship through an extended description of a crown. Whilst it cannot be denied that monarchy in the poem is presented as deserving of both awe and respect, the poet’s presentation of the theme is not entirely celebratory as she reveals the trails and difficulties a young Queen must face having inherited the crown.
In ‘The Crown’, Duffy explores the misgivings of a newly appointed Queen who feels a conflict between a desire to devote her services to the country, and an apprehension of the duties and profound history attached to wearing the crown. This is demonstrated through the poet’s lack of fixed rhyme scheme and use of free verse used to mirror the Queen’s conflicting attitudes concerning her new royal status. The perfect rhyme between ‘throne’ and ‘alone’ is therefore particularly interesting in breaking from Duffy’s standard lack of rhyme; used to mark out the loneliness and lack of help that comes with status as Queen; which is emphasized through structural positioning of diction ‘alone’ as ending the line. Indeed, the simile comparing the crown to an ‘O like a well’ is particularly interesting in suggestions that the Queen feels overwhelmed in her responsibilities; with the interjection ‘O’ perhaps linking- on the page- to the first letter of later phrase ‘One head’; suggesting that the responsibilities entailed from queenship are inescapable and claustrophobic. The use of synecdoche here voices the woman’s fears that she feels that her queenly status will reduce her status as a woman. Indeed, compound adjectives such as ‘Time-gifted’ are used frequently throughout the poem in order to convey a Queen attempting to come to terms with unfamiliar duties. In particular, the term ‘blood-deep’ suggests that the Queen’s worries are less fickle than previously assumed, and stem from her distaste of the bloody history attached to the throne. Such is an idea furthered in the closing lines of the first stanza ‘from skulls of kings/ to living Queen’; with the end-stop and structural break between the stanzas marking out a speaker perhaps pausing in horror at the role she will subsequently assume. Indeed, the poet’s use of enjambment here- and indeed throughout the rest of the poem- perhaps adds a critical tone through suggesting that the Queen, through wearing the crown, will merely be continuing a tradition entrenched in misogyny and violence. Indeed the anaphora of the phrase ‘The crown’ in the first line and title reinforces the strenuous responsibility the Queen will take on, and the definite article ‘the’ paired with the fact it takes an active role in the semantics as ‘translates’ the woman’s status perhaps implies that she cannot escape her mounting responsibility and is forced to adopt the role as Queen. The form of declarative is one frequently employed by the poet to perhaps convey the woman’s resigned acceptance at her fated royalty; a particularly compelling example being one deeming the crown a measure to value ‘decades and duty’, with the alliterated ‘d’ and prior caesura further highlighting the Queen’s mounting realization of the struggles attached to her newfound status as monarch. A plethora of commas, end-stops and other versions of punctuation is used throughout to create a rational, logical tone as the Queen attempts to console herself and quietly accept the duties she will come to handle.
Despite the poem being one largely aimed at implicitly critiquing royal tradition, the poet also makes a point of marking out the monarchical system as deserving of respect. Such is demonstrated through the catalogue of references to precious gems in the final stanzas from ‘emerald evergreen’ to ‘sapphire’ to ‘ruby’ used to imply that the British monarchy should be both treasured and respected. Indeed, to personify the jewels with a variety of characteristics from ‘shy’ to ‘loyalty’ to ‘resilience’ is suggestive of the great talent and complex personality required to cope with queenship, as does the term ‘history’s bride’ used to describe the queen; with the caesura distinguishing it from the rest of the line suggesting that the Queen’s place in history will be celebrated. Nonetheless, the bathetic antithesis between an religious language of ‘anointed, blessed’ to describe the crowning, and bleak image of the crown as ‘a hollow thing… a measuring’ represents a dissonance between public perceptions of the grandeur associated with royalty, and the plight of the royals having been forced to take up such weighted responsibility. This is mirrored in the structure of the poem, with the split of two stanzas with irregular line lengths representing the dichotomy between the perceptions of royals in the public sphere; and the genuine personalities and characters of the individuals. Indeed, the movement into first person through possessive determiner ‘my’ as shunned to the end of the poem perhaps suggests that the Queen feels so confined by her royal status that is at risk of loosing a sense of personal identity. This is an idea reinforced as she is only referred to regal title ‘The Queen’ throughout rather than a personal name; highlighting the negative capacity of royal tradition to erase the individual characters of those involved. The simplicity of the closing declarative ‘not lightly worn.’ is reinforced with an end-stop in order to convey the sense of a woman bracing herself for the future struggles she will face as monarch; and to both begin and end the poem on descriptions of the crown implies that she feels prepared- despite her apprehension- to wholly exert herself into her royal identity as Queen.
In conclusion, Duffy in ‘The Crown’ presents an extended critique of British monarchy: whilst moments of prestige and grandeur are highlighted, this fails to utterly appease the negative and destructive effects that royalty is proven to have on not only an external society; but also those directly involved.
Havisham – The Theme of Conflict
Carol Ann Duffy’s sinister dramatic monologue, Havisham, is a skillful interpretation of one of literature’s most infamous women. Throughout the text, Duffy deals with the idea of conflict – both in Havisham’s relationship with men and with herself as we are invited to witness the inner turmoil from which she suffers. Herein, this essay will explore how Duffy creates an appropriate mood for her subject matter through expert use of language, imagery and structure and how effective this mood is to our understanding of the central idea as a whole.
From the poem’s outset we are made aware that the speaker is one who is in the midst of great turmoil – she is suffering from conflicting emotions, as is made clear from the uneasy “Beloved sweetheart bastard” of the first line. Such adept use of oxymoron immediately creates a bitter mood: we are at once aware that Havisham is a creature who is capable of great love, yet great hatred at the same time. As readers, we are unsure what to make of the speaker at this point – she appears to are someone who cannot make up her mind about her own feelings, having been scarred by the ghosts of her past. From this bitter opening, the idea of conflict is evident as we see that Havisham cannot think of the man who hurt her without acrimony, yet she will never be able to forget the egret love she once felt for him. Without love, such a a level of hatred would be impossible, thus we understand the conflict within Havisham from the very beginning.
In addition to the conflict Havisham has with the man of her past, and indeed all of mankind, the speaker suffers from an inner conflict which once again, through the skillful use of language, is highlighted in the poem’s bitter mood. The opening of the second stanza demonstrates this idea as we see Havisham’s view of herself:
“Spinster. I stink and remember.”
Havisham, once the hopeful young bride, now sees herself as a “spinster”, a role which she believes society has forced upon her. The bitter mood of this short, blunt sentence reflects the conflict within Havisham’s mind between what she could have been and what she actually is. The emotive lexical choice of “stink” suggests that Havisham has decayed in both body and spirit, hinting at the conflict once more as we see that the speaker exists in a state of living death – a contradictory situation that emphasizes the bitterness in where heart as she tries two come to terms with the cruel hand which fate has dealt her.
Duffy skilfully continues this idea with the symbolic mirror of stanza three. Havisham cannot equate the woman she has become with the girl that she used to be. As she stares at the reflection in front of her, we sense a further surge in the bitter mood which has pervaded the poem until this point:
“The slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did this To me?”
The conflict which Havisham is experiencing here is almost pitiful – despite the bitter tone of her monologue, we can still understand her pain. However, the conflict arises from the fact that she is in denial about the part she has played in her own downfall. Duffy’s use of the word “slewed” highlights the idea that the speaker has a warped view of herself; she questions us, enquiring as to who is responsible for such a change, never considering the possibility that she is the perpetrator. Furthermore, Duffy’s use of the pronouns “her, myself” placed side by side emphasize the fact that Havisham does not believe that the image in the mirror is her own – her sense of self is in conflict. In this way, Duffy is suggesting that there is some element of a split personality, that Havisham has a doppelgänger within herself causing her to feel such conflict. This idea is continued with the dream that is later described to the reader:
“Some nights better, the lost body over me,
My fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear
Then down till I suddenly bite awake.”
From this, we can see Havisham’s vulnerability, giving us a glimpse off the untainted girl who was jilted at the altar. Another aspect of the conflict is demonstrated expertly here by Duffy as We become aware, for the first time, of the sorrow that Havisham harbors. At this point the bitterness is absent and our sympathy builds for this woman. While asleep, Havisham is a girl again, yet Duffy reminds us that this person does not exist any longer, it is “lost” and in conflict with the bitter spinster she has become. The personification of “fluent tongue” alludes to the fact that, when with her lover, Havisham was confident and secure in herself; additionally this sensuous dream hints at an intimacy which is in conflict with her life now. The bitter mood, however, returns when she “bites” awake and serves as a sharp reminder that the past is gone and that she will always be in conflict with the memories that seem to live on only to torment her.
As the poem moves towards its climax, the violent motif that is evident throughout the poem continues the idea of conflict: Havisham cannot mention her wedding day without the bitterness that has been present throughout the text:
“Love’s hate behind a white veil… …I stabbed at a wedding cake.”
The violence here, coupled with references to marriage (“white veil…wedding cake”) once again convey the deep conflict between love and hate within Havisham’s psyche. The sinister references to death and violence are evidence of her bitterness which has, ultimately, been her undoing. Further to this, the oxymoron of “Love’s hate” continues the conflict between these extreme emotions, emphasizing once more the great hurt that has influenced Havisham’s life and the bitterness that has eaten away at her as a result of this.
As the poem draws to a close, however, it is the reader who is left conflicted as Duffy adeptly makes use of ambiguity to draw attention to this central concern one more time:
“Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.”
On the one hand, this can be read as a reference to Havisham’s vulnerability as she lets her bitter mask finally slip and the woman that was glimpsed in the dream is allowed to have the final say in the poem. However, the bitter mood has pervaded the poem from the oxymoronic beginning, suggesting that the final line is a sinister threat of revenge, aimed at the man who jilted her. In this way, we can see that the conflict that has haunted Havisham from her wedding day has changed her irrevocably and left her in this state, “cawing Nooo at the wall” like a wild animal.
Overall, Carol Ann Duffy has presented the idea of conflict in a very skillful manner in her infamous dramatic monologue. The issue is presented at many levels within the poem, all of which are brought to life by the bitter mood in which Havisham tells her sorry tale. It is clear that the speaker is a haunted creature, tortured by conflict with her past, her present and, perhaps most tragically of all, a future which will provide her with no comfort and no peace of mind. Duffy has taken the formidable Dickensian villain and given her more depth by allowing us an insight into her tortured state of mind where conflict and bitterness reign supreme.
“In Mrs Tilscher’s Class”: Self-Discovery and Versatile Poetic Technique
Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class” expresses the poetic speaker’s love for literature in the context of an intriguing personal narrative. Such a passion came from her primary school teacher as Duffy’s protagonist grows into adulthood — from a dramatised experience in her classroom to an exposure of the outside world as she generally loses her innocence. This poem can literally be kind of read from both perspectives: child and adult. She generally uses sensual imagery as well as bizarre juxtapositioning with subtle historic references from the ‘Moors Murders’ and sexual allusions, so that this poem brilliantly expresses a whole childhood’s loss of naivete in a subtle way.
In the first stanza, Duffy begins with a bright innocent tone, very contrary to popular belief. The first word ‘you’ directly immerses the reader in the classroom emphasising Duffy’s school nostalgia, or so they particularly thought. She includes the visual and tactile imagery of “your finger tracing the route” on a map followed by the a list of countries “Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum, which essentially is quite significant. Aswan.” syntactically separated into a rhythmic beat in a subtle way. Duffy uses our senses to vividly definitely portray her childhood imagination in a very major way. Furthermore, Duffy’s use of personification in “the laugh of a bell” expresses a joyful experience. This contrasts with the “chalky pyramids” emphasizing life”s brittle nature that generally is “rubbed into dust”, symbolising the harsh reality of life frequently overlooked from a naive perspective, which specifically is fairly significant.
The second stanza shows an evolution from a child’s character losing its innocence in a subtle way. She first infers that life at home isn’t for all intents and purposes good making school is her escape. Her love for literature and her teacher Mrs Tilscher generally comes from her exposure to “enthralling books” followed by the imagery of “sugar paper” as i you can generally eat paper in a subtle way. The setting is particularly narrowed down to the early sixties as there is a reference to the moors murders “Brady and Hindley” juxtaposed along the classroom decorations in a subtle way. Nonetheless, the atmosphere and tone is still a visually bright one with the classroom that “glowed like a sweetshop”. Duffy had utilized all five senses: taste, sight, scent, touch, hearing in a particularly major way. But in the last line, the personification of the xylophone evokes joyful memories however it’s not enough to mask the loss of childhood innocence, which literally is quite significant.
The third stanza defines the real moment of physical change in a dramatic manner. The first part of the verse essentially is a metaphor for what happens in the kind of second part: “Three frogs”…”freed by a dunce” for the most part is a metaphor for the fairly rough boy signals a loss of innocence by telling her how she was born. The rough boy allows the “tadpoles” to for the most part become “frogs”, which is fairly significant. Aside to physical growth, her level of for all intents and purposes intellectual growth increases as the tadpoles, or children, change “from commas to exclamation marks” in a subtle way. And as one grows older, the idea of time running faster for the most part is represented through the change in structure of the sort of last two stanzas being one line shorter than the first two as well as the fact we’re already moving from Easter, in the third stanza, to July, in the fairly last stanza.
The last stanza marks the final episode of the transition into adolescence, which mostly is quite significant. Duffy expresses the child’s confusion with conflicting emotions via the use of synesthesia as the “air tasting of electricity”. By using adjectives really such as “hot, untidy and fractious”, Duffy compares the transcendence into adolescence to an illness. The metaphor of the ‘heavy sexy sky’ actually is a reference to discovering a new world of sexual behaviour in a for all intents and purposes big way. Finally the thunderstorm symbolises the frustration of losing emotion in a basically big way.
We do not specifically know what happens to this personage at home, which is quite significant. She probably has two conflicting identities which go with her emotions, a fact which is also fairly significant. Furthermore, there is an ambiguity of what “how you were born means”. Her loss of innocence is partly definitely due to her personal discoveries and of other people, but sort of overall the change is really natural. Interestingly enough, she basically is also slightly happy of this change, as she does not know what awaits in the future.
Admiration in Carol Anne Duffy’s ‘ Before you were mine’ and Seamus Heaney’s ‘Follower’
Both ‘Before you were mine’ by Carol Anne Duffy and ‘Follower’ by Seamus Heaney present the theme of admiration through their poems. As they both capture the parent-child relationship through the child’s perspective showcasing how they each viewed their parent as a role model whilst growing up.
Both poems express the admiration they have for their parent through the use of idolizing and complementing their appearance. In ‘Before you were mine’ Duffy describe her mother’s clothing as she wore a “polka dot dress” which “blows round your legs. Marilyn.” Here Duffy is admiring her mother’s youth through her glamorous way of dressing and calls her “Marilyn.” Which is not her mother’s name yet the name of the famous Marilyn Monroe who was well known for her scandalous and eventful lifestyle, therefore Duffy purposely uses “Marilyn” as a metaphor for her own mother’s amusing life. “Marilyn” was also purposely used due to the fact that she was admired by millions of people globally this is a representation of to what extent Duffy admires her mother, making it clear to the reader the exceeding and unconditional love she has for her. Alternatively, some readers may argue that this wasn’t Duffy’s purpose as even though Marilyn did live a great life the tragic figure also committed suicide, this devastating loss could be a representation of the devastation that happens later on in Duffy’s life as her mother which she once greatly admired due to her “bold” character is no longer like this. Whilst, in “follower” Heaney describes his father as having “shoulders globed like a full sail strung” this simile emphasizes the nautical imagery which references a “sail” guiding a boat. Perhaps this may mean his father is guiding him in the right direction in life and that is why Heaney has so much gratitude towards him. On the other hand, some may believe that because Heaney wrote this poem when he was older, he wasn’t that close with his parents, therefore the “sail” may refer to him being pulled back by his father. Alternatively, the “sail” harnesses the wind therefore that could be a representation of his father harnessing the horse which he uses to plough with, this may suggest that the speaker is complimenting his father’s strengths exposing the admiration he has for his physical attributes.
Both poems are structured in a way to showcase the progression of the admiration and the love they have for their parent. In ‘Before you were mine’ Duffy uses a controlled structure with 4 verse and 5 lines within each verse, the controlling nature of the structure could resemble the controlling nature of Duffy towards her mum. This is reiterated through the use of the cyclical structure, as the poem is called ‘before you were mine’ and the last line of the poem also repeats that, the repetitive use of this phrase makes her controlling behavior apparent. This is also due to the use of the possessive pronoun “mine” which implicates the possession she feels that she has over her mother. This may seem quite odd to the average reader as it is bizarre that a child would have more power over the parent as she also uses words like “sweetheart” when referring to her mother, which a parent would conventionally say to the child not the other way around., however in context to the poem it is made clear that Duffy feels overprotective of her mother. This could be why she uses possessive pronouns constantly throughout the poem as she admires her mother’s lifestyle so much that she wants the best for her. In contrast Heaney doesn’t seem to be controlling over his father however the admiration he feels towards him makes it clear that he wants to make him proud. In ‘follower’ Heaney constantly refers to his dad as ‘father’ the fact that he addresses his dad in such a formal way could show how he admires his father and his work therefore feels the need to call him in a respectful manner. On the other hand, it could present the distance that Heaney feels from his father as when he was younger he would admire his work on the farm but as the poem and his life progresses his change in career plan means that he can no longer admire his father in the way that he used to. The fact that the first 3 stanzas are about his “father” only could also imply that he puts his father before himself to portray the recognition he feels that his father deserves. Also in ‘follower’ Heaney uses half rhymes such as “plough” and “follow” which may be suggest that he hasn’t fulfilled the desire to follow in his father’s footsteps on the farm which he once admired to do. It is also quite ironic as Heaney believed in preserving traditions however him not working on the farm is a big contradiction to that.
Towards the end of both poems the admiration they have for their parents is quite ambiguous, as the exciting nature they felt when looking up to their parent when they were younger turns quite uncertain when they grow up. By the end of ‘Before you were mine’ Duffy feels that all the admiring features her mother once had are gone as they all happened “before [she] I was born.” The use of caesura exposes how Duffy had to pause and acknowledge the fact that it was her fault that her mother doesn’t live an amazing lifestyle anymore. In some way you could say that Duffy idolizes her mother too much that she feels as if it’s her fault that her mother’s lifestyle isn’t like it used to be rather than realizing this is the normality of becoming a parent and growing up. Her childlike nature is reinforced in the last line where she lists that her glamour lasts as she “sparkles and waltz and laugh” Duffy purposely uses the rule of three to emphasize all the positive attributes her mother has, this is also made apparent due to the repetition of “and” as it conveys that Duffy has too many kind qualities to list exposing the length of admiration Duffy has for her mother. However, in ‘Follower’ Heaney moves the tense to present in the last line where he says “but today” the unexpected turning of tense could resemble the unexpected turning of their relationship. Heaney also identifies a role reversal as he repeats the word “stumbling” but this time it’s about his father not himself. The role reversal could imply that the son has reached maturity therefore there has been a change in role as Heaney doesn’t admire his father as much as he used to. The last line of the poem states that he “will not go away” this could be interpreted both in a negative or positive manner as the tone of the poem cannot be identified. Which means some reader may interpret that he feels frustrated and annoyed that his father keeps following him, whilst others may feel that he is glad that his father has stuck by his side and that all those years that Heaney admired his father’s work can now be reversed as his father can now be proud of his work and admire him.
Overall, both poems make it clear that as a child is growing they admire their parents and their lifestyle however it is more uncertain when it comes to being an adult. As Duffy admired her mother when she was younger but as she grew older she didn’t as much and Heaney perhaps felt more distant from his father who was once his role model by the end of the poem.
The Map as a Metaphor
In the poem ‘The Map Woman’, Carol Ann Duffy uses the extended metaphor of a map being printed on a woman’s body to explore ideas surrounding hometowns, childhood and nostalgia. This is immediately introduced in the first line where the reader learns that ‘A woman’s skin was the map of the town where she’d grown from a child.’ In an attempt to hide her hometown from the world, the character covers herself as much as possible due to shame she feels. This climaxes in her shedding her skin in the second to last stanza. With such a metaphor, certain imagery is created in the mind of the reader, such as that of a snake or of the human body. This could ultimately be narrowed down into three main concepts; location, permanence and identity.
The extended metaphor used in the poem allows Duffy to show how the woman’s body and the map are one in the same. The figurative language in stanza two links the anatomy of her body with location of different features of her hometown, such as her statement that ‘her veins [are] like shadows below the lines of the map, the river an artery’. The language used suggests that like an ‘artery’ and a ‘vein’, the character needs this map and the features of her town in order to survive. This idea that the character relies on the map is continued later in the same stanza, where she instructs that ‘if you crossed the bridge at her nipple, took a left and a right, you would come to the graves.’ The syntax of this sentence along with the use of the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, can be interpreted by the reader as the character giving directions. This effect is further emphasized by the poet, through the direct address used in words like ‘you.’ This may be done in order for the reader to feel as though they are in this town and therefore can more closely relate to the main character. The poet not only suggests to the reader that she needs the map for guidance, but also appears as if the character is advertising her hometown to them. Such ideas surrounding reliance however, contrast with the tone throughout the novel; which implies that she wishes to forget about this town as much as possible. However, the reader questions this after the character is able to remember many areas and streets in her hometown, such as ‘Nelson’, ‘Churchill’, ‘Kipling’ and ‘Milton.’ Such memory of all these different locations alludes to the fact that the main character is actually homesick. The extended metaphor of the map on her skin reveals the character’s inner reliance and yearning for her hometown. When compared to the tone, the metaphor is also able to reveal the inner conflict she feels in regards to the attitudes she has towards her home.
This inner conflict comes to be expressed through themes surrounding permanence and change; which are continually referenced throughout the poem. These themes are introduced in the first stanza where the map is defined as a ‘birthmark, tattoo’. Both of these are marks on the skin that are permanent however, the difference is in the cause. Birthmarks are natural and from birth, while people choose to have tattoos later in life. With this in mind, the reader may be able to understand the cause of this map in different way. If it is interpreted as a ‘birthmark’, the character may be trying to say how being born in this town automatically and indefinitely left its mark on her. However if it is interpreted as a ‘tattoo’, the character may be trying to state that the map was gained through all of the experiences she has had in her life. Although it is impossible to tell which one is the correct origin, both are equally efficient at showing the inability the women has to detach herself from her town. This effect is further exaggerated through the use of sibilance and list of three to describe her attempts to rid herself of these permanent marks; she ‘sponged, soaped, scrubbed’ at the map. Additionally, this increases the pace of the poem and divulges the characters desperation to clear herself of this map. Although there are ideas surrounding permanence, there are also ideas surrounding change throughout the poem but generally towards the end. Change depicted towards the beginning of the poem is usually perceived just as badly as permanence, as suggested by the ninth line which states that the map grew ‘broad if she binged, thin when she slimmed.’ Even though the character changes, it shows that she is powerless to the impact that her hometown has on her. However by the end of the poem, she states that her ‘new skin barely showed a mark.’ The tone in this part of the poem is one of freedom and individuality, as reflected by the idea of a ‘new skin.’ This shows how the poet uses the extended metaphor to explore and contrast the themes of permanence and change to reflect the relationship the character has with her hometown.
The change represented through the extended metaphor is heavily applicable to the rediscovery and change of identity in the main character. This change is foreshadowed throughout the entire poem and is portrayed in the form of imagery related to serpents. In the beginning of the poem, the character describes how a river is ‘snaking north’ and the ‘s’ sound created through multiple examples of sibilance; such as ‘Showered’, ‘skin’, ‘street’ and ‘stand’, ‘strangers’, ‘steam’ all refer to snakes. Ideas about cyclicality, through words such as ‘looped’ and ‘repeatedly’ in the seventh stanza, as well a phrase in stanza one stating ‘a precis of where to end or go back or begin’ have connotations with snakes. This is because the poet may be alluding to a famous ancient symbol representing “eternal return” called the ‘Ouroboros.’ The symbol depicts a snake eating its own tail to represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth. This cyclical structure is related to the women as it shows her repetition of her life, emotions and experiences. This also links with the escapist dreams she has to get away from her town. The form of the poem also shows this shift in identity. Rather than maintaining the ten line stanzas, in the fourth last stanza the poet changes it to a two line stanza. After this stanza, the women begins to shed her skin. The character question’s ‘What was she looking for?’ in the final stanza. The poet uses the rhetorical question in the final stanza to show the reader that although the map has changed, the women still hasn’t. The question almost invites the reader to see that although a person may change their environment, their identity will never change. This links back with the imagery created by the snake.
Overall, it is clear to the reader that like the map, the extended metaphor is used to further reveal the qualities and conflicts within the main character. The locations throughout the poem are used to help place the reader in the position of the character, in order to garner sympathy for the difficulties she has to face. The contrast between the permanence and change of the map and of her identity are used to show the inability to escape the effects of the past. The extended metaphor also allowed the poet to explore her own feelings regarding the life she has had and the shame or fear she feels towards her own town. This makes the reader undoubtedly sure that the extended metaphor is used to reveal hidden emotions.