‘Through the poem Stealing, use one other modern poem and a pre-1914 poem, analyse how poets present disturbed minds.’

sample essay using the 2005 onwards anthology. Poems used are Stealing, Salome and The Laboratory

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`Through the poem Stealing, use one other modern poem and a pre-1914 poem, analyse how poets
present disturbed minds.'
In Stealing, Carol Ann Duffy writes about a psychopathic teenage character who steals a snowman
through boredom and being able to do it. Salome, also by Duffy, is about a woman who sleeps with
men and then kills them afterwards, getting a thrill out of it. The Laboratory (The Lab), written by
Robert Browning in 1845, is written in the voice of a woman who has been cheated on wanting to kill
the `other woman' so that she can have him back.
All of the voices in these particular poems are psychotic in different ways. In Salome, the titular
character is a sadist; she enjoys what she does and can talk about it quite casually. 'I'd done it
before/and doubtless I'll do it again' She talks about giving it up but admits to herself that she can't,
she's addicted to it, and sounds somewhat remorseful at this. This is a contrast to the woman's voice
in The Lab, who is not killing for fun, but to get the man she loves back. However, she starts to get
excited and impatient about it, showing us that death turns her on. `Quick-is it finished?' While these
two poems both have characters who get excited by death, the ambiguous character in Stealing,
doesn't kill the snowman for a reason (while in The Lab, she kills for love, in Salome, she kills for fun),
only because `he didn't look the same'. This character is obviously a teenager, which would mean that
they would automatically be profiled as a psychopath, but they show us the extent of their psychosis
through their speech `Mostly I'm so bored I could eat myself', and also through the cocky, angry
tone, showing that they have the typical youthful arrogance of a teenager, but inside are angry at
themself and want to stop but possibly can't.
The attitudes and feelings are very different but similar at the same time in these poems. The woman
in the poem is angry at the man she loves and painfully in love with him, as she tells us `He is with her,
and they know that I know' The feelings in The Lab are jealousy of the other woman being with the
man she loves, thrill of murder, love, pain of being cheated on and anger and I think to a certain
extent some of these are common in the other poems, especially Stealing. In Stealing, jealousy is a
strong emotion, as the character is jealous of what other people have, e.g. stealing the snowman
(this could have linked to a bad past for the character). Anger/hatred is also in the poem, as we see
when the character attacks the snowman `sick of the world', they are violent because they despise
themself and the world. In Salome, the attitudes are slightly different. She enjoys killing, but regrets
it and is confused at her state of mind. She also accepts this as an everyday occurrence `...I knew I'd
feel better/for tea, dry toast, no butter...'
Crime is an obvious theme in Salome, as well as religion, as Salome was originally a biblical character
who seduced King Herod and asked for the head of St. John the Baptist's head on a platter. This is
referenced in the poem `What was his name? Peter? /Simon? Andrew? John?' A strong theme in
Stealing is antisocial behaviour, shown by the stealing and then the murder of the snowman and their
brief monologue of the things that have stolen `I nicked a bust of Shakespeare once/flogged it, but
the snowman was strangest'. The main theme of The Lab is love, as the only reason the woman has
for killing Pauline or Elise is the fact that `her' man has left her for Pauline/Elise and she can't accept it
and wants him back `That's why she ensnared him...'.
The language in The Lab is very different to the modern poems. Browning used a very particular way
of saying things, for instance, he says `Pound at thy powder,-I am not in haste!' while someone
nowadays would say, take your time, I'm in no hurry. However, this is due to the time period the
poem was written in. Salome has many biblical references hidden inside the poem as a sort of a
homage to the Salome of the bible, e.g. `I flung back the sticky red sheets,/and there, like I said- and
ain't life a bitch/was his head on a platter.' In Stealing, the character is a teenager, so slang is used
frequently, e.g. `flogged' instead of sold and `booted' instead of kicked.

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Stealing is set out, when spoken, as a monologue, like the character is talking to a social worker or a
police officer. There are five stanzas with five lines each, and Duffy uses enjambment, reinforcing the
idea of it being a spoken monologue. The short sentences show the erratic nature of the character.
By contrast, in Salome, Duffy has written it in four stanzas, with an irregular line number pattern, as if
to show the state of her confused mind.…read more

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