stafford afternoons - carol ann duffy

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  • Stafford afternoons
    • what is the poem about
      • The poem is about an adult woman looking back at a traumatic experience that happened when they were a child. The consequence of this incident is that the persona saw reality and was rid of her childhood nativity because of this adulthood exposure.
    • who is the persona
      • The persona is an adult looking back at something that happened in their childhood, this is shown through the use of the past tense – “waved” and “threw”
      • The persona still seems to be traumatised by the experience which is shown through the noun phrase – “Living, purple root” The noun phrase acts as an euphemism and suggests that the persona still feels uncomfortable talking about the incident. The use of the euphemism also portrays the persona’s childhood innocence at the time.
    • themes
      • Sense of Place = The poem describes a family neighbourhood that is portrayed as derelict and isolated contrasted with conventional connotations of a suburban area. Duffy has used this to create a sense of enigma and foreshadow what is going to happen later in the poem.
      • Memories = As this is a poem that is the persona looking back at an experience that happened when she was a child. It also shows how this memory has stayed with her and affected her by almost taking her childhood away from her.
    • language
      • “Only there, the afternoons could suddenly pause.”
        • The use of the temporal dexsis – “there” may suggest that that the traumatic incident is hard for the persona to talk about, meaning that instead of naming the place she uses the dexsis
          • This is reinforced by the title – “Stafford Afternoons” as the plural use of “afternoons” suggests that it is a generalised memory, however the poem is about a very specific memory. The combined use of the dexsis and the plural concrete noun acts as a defence mechanism for the persona to limit the traumatic and hurtful reaction to the memory.
      • A sense of isolation = In the first two stanzas the persona seems isolated in a suburban setting
        • A long road held no-one, the gardens were empty.”
          • The use of the pronoun “no-one” and the adjective “empty” conveys the persona as being lonely and isolated, this represents her vulnerability and foreshadows what happens later in the poem. The isolation may represent her childhood innocence and nativity, so in the fourth stanza when she feels threatened she no longer appears isolated, because of the personification of her environment
            • “Sticky breathe on the back of my neck.” – The use of the assonance creates a harsh tone and foregrounds the sentence to amplify the danger that she is in.
      • Use of figurative language = Duffy uses figurative language to convey the persona’s transition from safety into danger
        • “The green silence gulped once and swallowed me whole.”
          • The metaphor of “green silence” and the personification creates a dangerous tone as the persona leaves the security of the suburban setting and enters into the woods.
            • This is reinforced earlier in the third stanza as it says – “I crawled through a hedge into long grass” The use of the adjective “long” suggests it is wild and by climbing through it she is losing her childhood innocence.


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