How Does Carol Ann Duffy Portray the Identities In ‘Little Red Cap’ and ‘Thetis’

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Within both poems Carol Ann Duffy portrays female characters as chanting their identity in order to survive the patriarchal society.

In little red cap Duffy shows another version of little red riding hood but in her experience Little Red-Cap is a sexual and revolutionary symbol where the colour red is symbolised with the abstract feelings passion however there is also another symbolic version to be seen in this poem when referred to the colour red which is, blood which is associated with menstruation and therefore with sexual maturity. In Thetis Duffy shows to avoid disaster among the gods, Zeus married her to a mortal, Peleus, to whom she bore a son, Achilles. When he was a baby, she dipped him into the river Styx to give him immortality, but the heel by which she held him was left vulnerable and he was later killed in the Trojan wars. In the poem, Thetis is fated to be brutalised by men, whatever shape she takes.

In little red cap we can see a young innocent girl who spots a wolf and as is unaware of that the real life (patriarchal life) lures him in to her with a lot of confidence. This can be shown in the quote “sweet sixteen..babe, waif and bought me a drink…murder clues.” This shows us that she felt special when he bought her a drink to keep her happy and felt like, she knew what she was doing until, “murder clues” when he starts to become the dominant one and taking control over the relationship it is seen as very negative. As well as this it may show that the way she lost her virginity which is described in a way of terror was clearly not what she had expected. This shows the girl to be seen as uneducated of how the real patriarchal society works and that she can not be the dominant one until she sees it for her self. However, in Thetis nymph is shown to be someone who never had any dominance over men and had to always obey. This is shown in the line “but I felt my wings clipped”. This clearly shows that her being metaphorically shrunk into the size of the bird to fly free she was still held. This clearly shows that nymph knew how it works thats why she followed but tried to escape as this was not what she wanted, but from the beginning she didn’t have a voice and was forced.

Duffy portrays little red cap with a lot of power, in the beginning, confident and sure of what she is doing, however, later on, is when she begins to loses her power and the wolf becomes more dominant, which is not what she thought was going to happen “one bite, dead. “Breakfast in bed”. This quote allows us to clarify that after taking away little red caps virginity, as well as the power she thought she was going to have within the relationship, she became portrayed as the typical housewife shown in the phrase “breakfast in bed”. She had lost all the pampering and actually became the one to look after him as if she was forced in the relationship this is when she realises that she was not educated about this topic and eventually got lost in the relationship. However, in Thetis, her power is being a shapeshifter which she thought it would help her escape from the patriarchal society of men taking decisions on her behalf and her having no say in it. This can be shown in the phrase “bird..snake..zebra..mermaid..eel..weasel..rat..wind ..gas”. The number of times she had to change herself into another form using her power which, shows that her power was actually useless which may portray that the power of a man is more powerful than her power. As in the end “when out of the blue..my tongue was flame..turned inside out..or that’s how it felt when the child burst out”. This shows that even her trying to escape in all different forms the power of a man was stronger and everything happened so quickly that’s why it says “child burst out”. Shows her power was no help and everything was against her will.

As we see in the little red cap showing the change in her identity of when she starts happy, confident and an innocent girl to when she comes out mentally unstable after 10 years. This can be shown in the following quote “I took an axe…one chop, scrotum to throat…out of the forest I come with my flowers, sining, all alone”. We can see how Duffy portrays the violence due to her wanting to get out of the relationship with the word “axe” shows that the pain the wolf gave her and lack of dominance, which to the wolf may have been very normal as indeed that is how the patriarchal society was seen, she took it out by first “axe to a willow an axe to the salmon” which shows she wanted to see how it affected others as she was so lost in her own feelings. “come with my flowers, singing,” clearly shows she was mentally disturbed as after all of that happening she came out in a way no one actually would. In comparison to Thetis, nymph has no say what so ever not even at the end as it shows “child burst out” she was unable to say or do anything the lack of feminism and the lack of rights she feels she had were unspoken of, and in that consequence she ended up giving her self up to the mortal man and her son without choosing what she wanted to do. It ends with the typical fact that a woman has to agree to what the man: whether it be a father a God or a husband, she must do it.

To conclude the comparison is the feminist attitude within the poem has a drastic difference as one has confidence and in the end believes that she has the right to live in the way she wants and so lives whatever of her life she has left in the way she wanted being educated but in the worst way possible and one has vulnerability and believes that only running away was the solution where she could have spoken or said something and shown that she had equal rights, but one thing they both share in common is there is a lot of sexual and mental abuse also seen as a change from adolescences to adulthood. I believe that Carol Ann Duffy adds bits of her life into the poems almost as an autobiography and shows how at many point she was lost and had no dominant level but regains it in the end.

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