English Literature - Unit 2 - Medusa

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The narrator imagines that she's got a powerful death stare and a head full of snakes like Medusa to show how angry she is at her husband. Jealousy does strange things to some people...

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You've got to know what the poem's about

  • The narrator is a woman who suspects her husband is having an affair.
  • She imagines that jealousy has transformed her into Medusa, a monster from Greek mythology that can turn things into stone by looking at them. She wants to turn her husband to stone so he can't betray her.
  • She imagines looking at different animals and turning them to stone.
  • She seems vulnerable at the end of the poem and asks her husband to look at her.
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Learn about the form, structure and language

  • Form - The poem is a dramatic monologue written from the point of view of the jealous wife. The narrator questions and accuses her husband but he doesn't reply - he has no voice in the poem. The poem is divided into irregular stanzas except the last line, which is emphasised because it is isolated
  • Structure - There is a sense of the narrator's anger building up through the poem as a result of the extended metaphor of Medusa's violent killing. The tone changes in the final stanza as the narrator seems suddenly insecure, perhaps because she wants her husband to choose her over the other woman.
  • Transformation - Her imagined transformation gives her the power to take revenge on her husband.
  • Violent Imagery - The narrator seems to take pleasure in imagining violence in the poem. This highlights her anger and seems shocking because it is expressed in such an extreme, destructive way.
  • Language of vision - language of seeing connects the narrator to Medusa, the mythical creature with the deadly stare. Vision can be ambiguous in this poem - it can be loving or dangerous.
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Remember the feelings and attitudes in the poem

  • Anger - The narrator seems very angry and bitter at the idea of being betrayed.
  • Jealousy - She's possessive over her husband and is jealous of his other women.
  • Insecurity - Despite her anger, she idolises her husband. She wants him to return her love and at the end of the poem, she seeks reassurance from him that she's beautiful. 
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Go a step further and give a personal response

Have a go at answering these questions to help you come up with your own ideas about the poem:

1) Why do you think the poet has chosen not to use regular rhymes?

2) What is the effect of the narrator's childlike language?

3) Why do you think the man has no voice in the poem?

4) What ideas does the poet present about male and female relationship?

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Imagination can be pretty powerful...

Like this poem, the narrator in 'Brendon Gallacher' explores the power of using the imagination.

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