Feminine Gospels

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The Long Queen

Summary: Duffy portrays a patron saint of a women who is their ruler + maternal figure. Opening poem introduces a matriarchal world, setting a strong female voice for rest of collection. 

Themes

  • Motherhood - "No girl was born who wasn't the Long Queen's child" "Lie on birthing beds, push till the room screamed scarlet + children bawled + slithered into their arms" (Negative)
  • Female suffering -  "Childhood [...] bereaved, bereft" "When a girl first bled to be insignficant, no cause for complaint" (suffer in silence) "Tears"
  • Female empowerment/solidarity - "taken Time for a husband" (time is personified to emphasise it's importance over men) "Women, girls, spinsters and hags" (asyndetic listing)
  • Female history

Language 

  • Semantic field of tales ("stories, true or flase" "gossip, scandal or anecdote, secrets" "teller of tall tales") Amplified by anaphora of phrase "some said" - mystery, encourages reader to question the rumours we've heard about women 
  • Structed to exlpore the different stages of female life, the 4 "laws" - "Childhood", "Blood", "Tears" + "Childbirth" show women untied y universal 'law' of female experience (all inherently linked to suffering, pain is instrinsic to being a woman. 
  • Listing of lowercase royal figures ("the duke, the lord, the baronet, the count") - dismissive. "Time" is personfied, elevates importance over men who are dismissed after 1st stanza 
  • Asyndetic listing of "girls, spinsters and hags, matrons, wet nurses, witches, widows, wives, mothers" - elevates and connects them then despite their juxtaposed or derogatory connotations.

Structure

  • Internal rhyme + half rhyme in regular sestet stanza form 
  • Naturalistic diction juxtaposed against regal + formal language
  • Cyclical stucture: 4 things women have to endure repeating in viscious cycle 

Context

  • Inspired by Queen Elizabeth I, had the longest reign of 44 years, eulogised the Mother of th nation. Dismissing men could reference Queen E who never married (Virgin Queen)
  • Subject of period often avoided, implies 'make it invisible' view of menstruation from 1960's when Duffy was growing up 

Typicality 

  • "Queen"-little individuality, typical of the collection, few peoms have actual names, allows reader to identify with them more easily 
  • In the previous collection 'The World's Wife' - also used fairytale imagery, surrealism to address feminine agendas 
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The Map Woman

Summary: Deals with ideas about personal growth and identity, using an extended metaphor of a womans skin being etched with a map of her past

Themes

  • Identity
  • Female Suffering
  • Female body 

Language: 

  • Extended metaphor of a map-representing the woman's identity which is tied to specific places and buildings 
  • Stanza 12: ****** nature ("Stripped", "honeymoon thong", "delicate bra") Serpentine imagery of "her skin slough[ing] likes a snake's" - amplified by sibilance (hissing sound) Symbolism of her becoming hersefl + finding own sense of individuality 
  • Asyndetic listing of clothing-desperate to hide her identity. Shifts to luxrious imagery ("linen, satin, silk") but they're peripheral + meaningless can't escape self ("the map perspire under") 

Structure

  • Free verse-internal rhymes + half rhymes (conveying a barely contained imagery)
  • Anapestic tetrameter - rapid driving pace (galloping tempo)
  • Enjambment = shows freedom within the poem which constracts constraints explored

Context

  • Proper nouns – “Picture House”, “The Beatles”, “Dustin Hoffman” these cultural references of pop culture are from the post-war era of the 50s and 60s. She creates a kind of English Everytown from that period, with its motorways and sensible shops and its strict social hierarchies – mayor, councillors, teachers.
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Beautiful

Summary: Series of women appear to be manifestations of the same being, defined only by their abilitu to excite the desire of men. Four famous women depicted embody beauty

Themes

  • History/time
  • Female body
  • Sexualised image
  • Tranformation 

Language

  • Motif of "beauty is fame" (shifts slightly for each woman-"beauty is fate" "tough beauty") alludes to destined suffering that descends on a woman famous for beauty 
  • Media - onatmatopeoic"cameras gibbered away' before brief sardonic phrasing/course aggressive language "act like a ******* princess" "give us a smile c*nt". 

Structure

  • Single narrative as if all the same character presents archetype of sought after feminine beauty, significance of male gaze across history hasn't changed
  • Free verse, sudden use of clear tetrameter 
  • Frequent internal rhyme, crowding of caesura's + listing = hectic pace
  • Mock epic form
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The Diet

Summary: Depicts insecurity within women, struggling to keep identity when conforming to societies demands. Explores the maxim 'inside every fat woman is a thin one trying to get out"

Themes

  • Identity 
  • Media/society
  • Female Body 

Language

  • "The wind blew her away", "seed small", hypophora 'What passed her lips? Air,/water' portrays women as externally linked to natural regardless of if they are pressured by or excluded from society - thus the feminine seems eternally linked to nature. 
  • Asyndetic listing-theme of restriction, breathless pace depicts sense of struggle (sibilance=hissing of media)
  • Semantic field of death, violent metaphor "had guns for hips"-severity of anorexia
  • Fairytale allusions to Alice in Wonderland, but unlike Alice she won't return to her true self
  • 2nd Half=fanatastical imagery of the girl shrinking shifts to imagery of binging as she is digested 
  • Terms of address: 'Anorexia's true daughter', 'tiny others', 'the Fat Woman' - sees people defined by their size.

Structure

  • Cyclical structure-ends up in same body showing impossiblity of society's expectations 
  • Enjambment, internal rhyme + listing - fast and deliberately irritating tone. Adds to sense of fantasy 
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The Woman Who Shopped

Summary: Duffy exlores dehumanising effects of consumerist society when material goods are viewed as more important than human interaction 

Themes

  • Consumerism 
  • Female Body 
  • History 
  • Tranformation 

Language 

  • "shilling" "saved up a pound, a tenner" Crossing over time periods (transcends) representation of all women 
  • Repetition of verb "wanted" combined with sematic field of gambling 
  • Extended metaphor-her becoming the source of her acquisitions 
  • Sexual imagery - poem ends with vulgur term "crowds would queue overnight at her ****" 

Structure 

  • Caesura - inability to stop shopping, overwhelming fast pace 
  • NO puncutation throughout + lack of rhyme conveys manic, obsessive tone reflecting speaker's mind, after volta pace slows (sense of permanence)
  • Volta-abruptly shifts to darker surreal imagery of the woman hyperbolically transforming into a shop 

Context

  • How women are trapped by marketing + consumerist capitalism lures them into a flase sense of consciousness + endless desir to replace items in today's society 
  • Attacks commodifcation of beauty through capitalism 
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Loud

Summary: a woman's voice become a powerful force against 'the News' - may be metaphor for women (possibly autobiographical) success in their careers and thus soceity. 

Themes

  • Female voice
  • Female empowerment via transformation 

Language 

  • Begins with news report-violent imagery of war, captures attention same way headlines do 
  • Similie "like a firework, with a terrible sulphurous crack"- aural + violent imagery of finding voice
  • Personifies the media - criticism of its priorities then personifies her voice "stomp[ing] through the city" in a fairytale setting. 
  • Natural imagery throughout-rage of indivudal woman is a force of nature-addresses taboo of being loud

Structure

  • Cyclical-nothing changed, still a lack of female voice in politics, women not given a voice despite their efforts in  a deteriorating society
  • Listing-chant getting louder + faster parallel to female voies getting stronger 
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A Dreaming Week

Summary: Narrator rejects the offer of love in its physical form in order to dream instead

Theme

  • Escape from reality 
  • Time
  • Female power

Language

  • Motif "not [...] I'm dreaming" 
  • Sensual language and intimate tone. Smooth + fluent sounds ("black silk") extends notion of a deep sleep
  • Lexical field of literature and poetry (sibilance denotes continuous breath =poetry is a vitality to speaker)
  • Relgious allusions to 7 days of creation 

Structure 

  • 7 stanzas-1 for everyday of the week. Enjambment until final lines at end of stanxa, symbolic of her mind/imagination (untamed, connotes passion) 
  • Alternating rhyme scheme with no abrpt pauses
  • Duffy line by line suberges reader into unknown world, isolated from harsh reality 
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The Light Gatherer

Summary: An extatically maternal poem, an expression of the adoration of a mother for their daughter.

Themes: 

  • Motherhood

Langauage: 

  • Extended metaphor of light-praising child, rejoice in new life 
  • Biblical allusions ("kissed feet""I knelt watching") - theme of idolatry 
  • Celestial imagery ("you fell from a star") - heavenly + angelic 
  • Final stanza- "Like a jewelled cave, turquoise + diamond + gold") metaphor of precious stones

Structure

  • Use of structure to illustrate concepts: 'opening out' positioned with enjambement so that it imitates the evolution of the child whose environment she 'squeals at' is transformed into a  symbolic space via simile 'like a jeweled cave' with atavistic 'cave' showing destiny of child.
  • Enjambment - endless adoration of child
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The Cord

Summary: poem addresses themes of identity and growing up, using the umbilical cord and the girl’s progressing views of the umbilical cord.

Themes: 

  • Motherhood 
  • Identity 

Language

  • Cord acts as an extended metaphor of the bond between mother + daughter 
  • Fantasical imagery "princess spun it from a golden spinning wheel" "Great Forest" - tone of innocence reinforced by monosyllabic rhetorical questions "was it real?" 
  • As poem progresses the "cord" diminishes in valuefrom "silver" to "rope" signifiying devlopment of child + loss of chilhood fantasy 
  • Ambiguous ending - nothing matters as they have each other, their bond will exist whether or not the chord is found

Structure

  • Cyclical structure showing unwavering bond between Mother + child
  • Narrative is in a storylike, fairytale style 
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North-West

Summary:  modern elegy mourning personal history and lost opportunity. Key theme=adult regret

Themes

  • Loss

Language 

  • Ominous imagery (personifcation of the "ferry griev[ing]" 
  • Tone of regret ("we do what we always did " "ruined loves, unborn children, ghosts") - also illustrates patriarchal pressure to have children + it appears the narrator didn't
  • Urban imagery used as a pathetic fallacy: 'the city drifts out of reach', 'hidden streets', 'the ferry grieves'.
  • Natural imagery: through nouns such as 'water', 'wind', 'wave', 'flowers'.
  • Theme: Liverpool, no longer feeling connected (temporary images of "rented rooms") 

Structure: 

  • Half rhyme - signifies incomplete life, inconclusiveness of poem perhaps from the 'unborn children' and general lost potential. 

Context: 

  • Duffy's relationship with Adrian Henri at university in Liverpool - had a negative ending. Feels regret + frustration at this period in her life (similar to Mrs McKay in Stafford Girls, she endures relatioship she considers ruined, no children + unable to fit into social norms. Ghost of past + disappointment = suicide) 
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Tall

The difficulty of female upward social mobility, the inability for women to fit in, or that empowering oneself can mean a sacrifice as well as gain. Duffy constructs a fabe like character designed to parody the social theory of reflexivity.

Themes: 

  • Female empowerment + transformation 
  • Female isolation

Language

  • Leit motif - "like a christening gift" religious offering is offered as explanation for tallness, puts pressure on "woman" to live up to potential. Links to religious imagery (simile 'like a christening gift', 'local crowds [...] chanting', 'she knelt [...] as if she were praying for rain', persona attracts 'pilgrims', 'day one' 'day two' 'day three' 'day six' Biblical - no day four or five (animals and plants) - infertility?) 
  • The protagonist is presented as a god like figure due to unnatural height 
  • Natural imagery "dust storms over the Pyramids, hurricanes over the USA, floods in the UK" but she was "far away".(she saw all in advance from a great height, if she hadn't of been relegated as a freak she could've saved them) "She stooped low + caught their souls in her hands as they fell from the burning towers (9/11)

Structure 

  • "Day one ... day two...day six" = coherent structure, echoes creating of the earth, suggests woman is a gift from nature
  • Enjambment and monosyllabic sentences 

Context 

  • Social reflexivity theory= capacity of an agent, (in the case of the poem Tall, the persona), to recognise forces of socialisation and alter their place in the social structure.
  • Tallness is stereotypically masculine + viewed as positive. 
  • Theoretical feminism= otherness is defined as being contrary to everyone who is the same. (To be the other means to be excluded, subordinted + isolated) , feminists believe all women have been classified as 'other', and suffer, to one degree or another, some form of stigmatisation in their daily lives.

 

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History

Examination of modern polemic neglect. Physcial personifcation of female history allows Duffy to deduce that it's non existent

Themes: 

  • Time/History as cyclical and fated- anaphora of 'how the saints whistled and spat in the flames,/how the dictator [...] blew out his brains'. Frequent internal rhyme 'brains' 'trains'
  • Feminine Abuse

Language

  • Hyperbole =  the persona, an elderly lady, has given up every domestic grace + has decayed into slovenly living + dying health ("not a tooth in her head" "nightdress smelling of pee" "wheezed, coughed") - grotesque imagery mixed with domestic imagery (vulnerability) 
  • Personification of history ('she was History. She'd seen them ease him down from the Cross"-capitalisation of history and "Cross", biblical allusion anchors reader into history. "His mother"=only female figure but even she acts as passive observer 
  • Asyndetic listing of wars " Bannockburn, Passchendaele, Babi Yar, Vietnam". Persona shifts her nostalgic visions to more modern events 
  • "She woke up again, cold, in the dark, in the empty house. Bricks through the window" "thieves in the night" "fresh graffitti sprayed on her door, **** wrapped in newspaper posted onto the floor" - violent dynamic verbs, haunting reality of persona (elderly left to die alone in homes, undefended from tyranny of wayward youth. Capitalisation of "bricks" in final stanza joins lexis of historically significant acts of cruelty that preceeded it

Structure: 

  • Enjambment + caeasura = endless suffering, creat stuttering rhythm (internal rhyme)

Context 

  • Female persona observes historical acts of savagery but even in her dreams she doesn't intervene, remains passive. Duffy attempts to share blame with women, motivate to make a stand + change things like the treatment of the elderly within modern society
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Sub

Woman undertakes the roles of men in historically significant events, allowing Duffy to argue women could have done the same with additional suffering but were denied the opportunity

Themes

  • Female empowerment 
  • Unity between genders as a solution 

Language

  • Positive female imagery = menstruation motif ("cup-tampon" "blood and soap suds mingled to pink" "that time of the month" "precious egg")-suffering as minor entity 
  • Metamorphisis = omnisicnet protagonist becomes "Ringo", steps in for "Neil" + "Beefy")-mocking tone, diminishing significance of the male achievements 
  • Maternal imagery - "nursing the precious egg"I felt the first kick of my child" "motherhood kept me busy at home" - restrictive, not regarded as achievement next to male events (juxtaposes masculine sporting imagery

Structure 

  • Upbeat tone in term of collection as it comes to end of 1st section -celebration of female achievement 
  • Each (conventional) stanza represents woman's life experiences developing ("time of the month" "motherhood" ) 
  • Speaks from various male perspectives that point out feminist agendas respectively- women excluded from history 

Context

  • Exclusion of women within history 
  • Alludes to 1921 when women were banned from playing football 

Links 

  • Women lost throughout history - 'History' + 'Beautiful' 
  • Motherhood - 'Virgins Memo' 'Long Queen' 'The Cord' 'Light gatherer' 
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The Virgins Memo

A short note written from the perspective of the virgin Mary giving advice to her son Jesus. Questions male creation. 

Themes: 

  • Motherhood
  • Religion 

Language: 

  • Parenthesis "(text illegible)" "(untranslatable)" - hints at illiteracy, women are voiceless + uneducated. Links to bible + how it's easily misread/distorted
  • "Giraffe" - Freudian perspective, phallic symbol (masculine) 
  • "Memo"- insignificance contrasted by "gospel" (fundamental truth)-reflect female desire to challenge deep rooted misogyny + offer female perspective 
  • Overwhelming negative language-reflects way women were treated

Structure

  • Inconsistent pace, stuttering sections where enjambment speeds up
  • Stream of consciousness style - lack of grammar
  • Memorandum - idea of passing thought also makes poem seem less important 
  • Sections are illegible (how easily women's voices are ignored) + vaired short lines (women ridiculed for speaking at large) 

Context 

  • Challenge traditional male ideas about the gospel truth + idea that women should be denied a voice - challenge deep rooted misogyny. Questioning male creation 
  • Presents itself as a smaller biblical texy tjay didn't make it due to process of pro-orthodox church- ironic as most suited to term gospel, yet it wouldn't be percieved as genuine
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Anon

Speaker explores the experiences of undefined women. Explores idea that anonymous female writing is often hidden/ unidentified female writers 

Themes

  • Feminine voice-not expressed verbally through 'pen' 'passed on [...] like a baton'.
  • Feminine inheritance-the subject is associated with a kind of social or cultural presence which has gone unrecorded across time but eternal - 'down through the years'.
  • Female role in society: anaphora of 'maybe' ('maybe a nurse, a nanny,/maybe a nun')  - all jobs are caring for another - lack of independence. Yet inanimate desk personified 'it cleared its throat/as though it had something/to get off its chest'. Social pressure cause women to 'packed it all in,/ the best verb, the right noun' despite superlatives showing talent. 

Language: 

  • Indefinite pronoun "she" - unidentified, symbolic of female recording thoughout history  
  • Extended metaphor/allegory for women across time as one + Play on words ("Anon")- symbolic personification of abstract concept + impossibility to overcome issue Reflects how they are unreachable and to reinforce how they have been neglected despite being incredibly important voices. 
  • Personification of the "skull on a shelf" clearing "its throat as though it had something to get off its chest" - imagery of concealment, representative of all women
  • Similie "how she passed on her pen like a baton" - past writers passing on responsbility to next gen of women = hopeful tone
  • "Nonny" - nonsense expression (Shakespearean songs) - foolish not to listen to women 

Structure: 

  • Humorous tone + informal style 
  • Written in anecdotes
  • Simplistic word play: opposing serious subject - playful tone.
  • Ony Anon + Sub use 1st person in first half of collection 
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The Laughter of Stafford Girls' High

Mock epic tale acts as satirical view of 'girls school' education + its restrictiveness. Follows a laugh as it takes over a school.

Themes: 

  • Women's voice - feminism 
  • Transformation 
  • Childhood

Language: 

  • Extended metaphor of a "laugh" - linked to water "'a spalsh', 'dribble', 'ripple', 'gurgle'"- nature is uncontrollable therefore a rebellion is inevitable. Reflective of the waves of feminism-students and teachers unite and a new female identity is created by the end. Paired with natural/floral imagery "blooming rose of her throat, a flower of merriment" 
  • Strong image of death ("The tombstones of learning" "the grass on the playing fields grew like grass on a grave")-signifiy death of the suppression of women. Doctor Bream, "the headmistress" was the only one not to join in, representative of ind's that see feminism as radical-holding back change
  • Criticism of education system: Terms of address: all girls names have four syllables ('Emily Jane', 'Carolann Clare' 'Rosmary Beth') - education system breds conformity opposing individuality. Listing of male figures("John Dryden, Thomas Shadwell") - patriarchal control over education, exclusion of women 

Structure:

  • Melancholic ending of "Mrs McKay" walking "into the sea" "till the firm waves lifted under her arms + danced her away like a groom with a bride" - escaped a loveless marriage through suicide
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White Writing

Speaker creates their own ceremony to marry their same sex lover. Autobiographical narrative showing the struggle of being accepted as a homosexual individual. 

Themes:

  •  Marriage 
  • Female Empowerment

Language: 

  • Motif/refrain- "I write them in white" - colour connotations of purity but also of invisibility + secrecy= opportunities are metaphorically invisible
  • Links to ephemeral imagery 'words on the wind', 'inked water in moonlight' - could reflect how lesbian relationships have no place in traditional society thus not recognised. 
  • Light imagery ("your soul a flame" `'see last gold sun") - romantic imagery, depicts a passionate love despite society's restrictions/prejudices

Structure: 

  • Free verse- no rules or boundaries 
  • Quatrains - systematic feel, reflective of wedding ceremony. Each stanza references to the challenges faced: restriction on love, lack of religious support, lack of laws from gov, lack of advice from education + parents, criticism of media. Quatrains represent stable foundation of relationhsip- society doesn't need to give couple stability 
  • Irregular rhyme: future is unstable

Context: 

  • LGBT people are criminalised in more than 70 jurisdictions worldwide to this day. 74 countries still illegalise homosexuality. Duffy draws from personal expience to highlight the ongoing injustices that still exist in our society. 
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Gambler

The process of writing poetry is expressed through gambling.

Themes: 

  • Gender equality: feminine poetry is equated to masculine gambling.

Language: 

  • Italicised repetion of "Indiannectar. Indiannectar." - italicised repetition + pause = indluging in language 
  • Conceit of gambling as the process of writing poetry: 'it's words/ she picks, names she ticks'and 'she sits [...] writing the poems of bets'- makes the poem metafictional.
  • Semantic field of poetry: 'sound of words', 'the form' "breath of a word" "two syllables" 
  • Frequent proper nouns: 'Indian Nectar', 'Heiress of Meath, Sprinfieldsupreme, Mavis, Shush, Birth of the Blue' all real life horses but may be utilised for their connotations of stereotypical feminine gender roles . BUT speaker only puts money on those associated with men

Structure: 

  • Unequal line lengths-represents inequality of wins + loses in gamblling, could also hint at inequality of men + women 
  • Commentary tone=lack of punctuation + enjambment creates a fast pace=excitement
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Wish

Elergy expressing speaker's imagination ressurecting dead loved one. Read biographically like a catharsis for Duffy 

Themes: 

  • Feminine abuse and mistreatment: 'her bare feet walk along the gravel path/between the graves' a reference to Robert Graves' poem 'Theseus and Ariadne' where Ariadne is abandoned, neglected, lonely and moribund until she is rescued by Bacchus to be his wife and in his household of everlasting celebration - Duffy perhaps symbolically rescuing someone through recalling Graves' lines with comparable diction. 
  • Bringing the feminine back to life

Language: 

  • Morbid natural imagery: "sly worms" "covering of the earth" "the drowsing corms" 
  • Repetition of pronoun "nobody" ("nobody died. Nobody wept. Nobody slept") - in death you lose identity, only kept alive by others memories 
  • Metaphor - "If I can only push open this heavy door" = veil between 2 worlds, ysmbollicaly attempting to rescue someone. Link to feminism? 
  • Sleep imagery: 'kicked off the covering', 'shifted', 'stirred' - perhaps denial paired with repetition of 'what if' could connote personal catharsis or wider lack of understanding for why specific individuals have been lost (i.e. her story) 

Structure: 

  • Fast pace - panic, fear of unknown 
  • Short syntax, monosyllabic internal rhyme 

Context: 

  • Autobiographical, could link to rocky relationship with her late mother 
  • Duffy wonders what if it would be like if she could climb out of her grave (metaphorical for difficulities women face) + wonders "what if" women could climb out of their own metaphorical grave of oppression + patriarchy 
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North-West

Penulitmate poem addressing the teme of identity + maturity as the speaker reflects on places they grew up. Modern elegy mourning personal history and lost opportunity via possibility of life. 

Themes: 

  • Lossas a modern elegy Duffy presents a more broad sense of loss through the loss of a place and its possibilities - place thought to be Liverpool due to 'yeah yeah yeah' Beatles reference but this song title is hidden (like the 'hidden streets') and thus must be uncovered by the reader. 

Language: 

  • Ominous imagery + personfiication ("the ferry grieves" "the flowers of litter, a grave") + semantic field of loss: 'what we lost', 'what we always did' - more abstract sense of loss typical of the modern elegy form. Emphasised by pathetic fallacy 
  • "Only an X on a wave" - memories are hard to pinpoint 
  • Disconnected tone created through temporary images "rented rooms" "tourist boom" - no longer feels onnected to Liverpool 

Structure: 

  • Half rhyme: 'air' and 'yeah', 'board' and 'bird' - emphasises concept of unfinished business and inconclusiveness of poem perhaps from the 'unborn children' and general lost potential.  (links to "ruined loves, unborn children, ghosts) 

Context: 

  • Liverpool (dictates title of poem) - symbolic as it's where Duffy went to university + fell in love with Adrian Henri. Regret towards this chapter of her life. 
  • Links to other poems: Stafford Girls High- Mrs McKay endures a relationship she considers 'ruined' + is unable to fit within social norms. Ghosts of the past + dissapointment drive her to suicide. The Map woman- identity + reflecting on past 
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Death and the Moon

Subject mourns the loss of Adrian Henri, former partner of Duffy's who passed away 2 years before the poem was published. 

Themes: 

  • Lossconventional theme of traditional elegy. nostalgic 'tough confetti' funeral/wedding.
  • Grief: colour imagery ('gold' to 'red' to 'black') reflect stages of grief.

Language: 

  • The "moon" acts as a  metaphor of Adrian. Cosmic imagery ('the moon', 'the sky's dark pocket', 'space', 'stars' - he is 'unreachable'.) 
  • Sense of distance = "the moon is nearer than where death took you"- trying to quantify distance to refind lost connection. Idiom "I break the ice"-trying to start convo + reconnect. Paradoxical language = "Unreachable" + "unseeable" contrast previous "I could touch". Never can restore connection but still searching for line of communication. 
  • Natural imagery: 'rain', 'wood', 'unseeable in the air', 'light', 'the water's mouth' presents death and greif as natural. The 'moon' is 'nearer than where death took you' could be metaphor for Henri - constant presense to living loved ones, maybe representation of how his memory lives on as 'the moon, surely, only as far again as the roof'.

Structure: 

  • Each stanca shifts tense, from present to past to present. Shows stages of grief. 

Context: 

  • Dedicated to 'Catherine Marcangeli', the partner of Adrian Henri who was a long time friend and former lover of Duffy's. 
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Work

Duffy tells of a woman who endures to care for her multiplying children. Though capable, as sole providers for children women are put under excessive pressure, shows how women are both responsible for + victims of production. 

Themes: 

  • Self sacrifice: the speaker is willing to work 'to the bone' to care for her children, willing to 'put in/a 90-hour week' and 'scattered the teeth in her head for grain'.
  • Transformation: the children multiply  from 'one' to 'a thousand more' to 'a billion' and  mother transforms from individual to matneral deity figure.
  • Capitalism: 'she worked at home' to 'she worked outside' then Industrial Revolution work 'was factory gates' - she later goes on 'she built streets' ''cities grew'. 'she flogged TVs,/ designed PCs, ripped CDs, burned DVDs.' - use of past tense.

Language: 

  • Lexical field of domesticity ("washing, ironing, sewing") - women weren't expected to work in public domain but always work in private sphere. Contrasts later imagery "she trawled the seas, felled trees, grazed beef" - global scale, hints at environmental effects of production. 
  • Parrallels of "to feed two" "to feed fifty" "to feed more,more" "her offspring swelled"- metaphorically transforms into mother of the world and sacrifices herself. Hyperbole hints at speed of population growth. 
  • Deathly imagery in final quatrain "sicken, died, lay in a grave, worked, to the bone" = ends not with celebratory view of motherhood but a result of a womans hard woek. Only passive in death. Shows she is a victim as well as responsible for destruction 

Structure: 

  • Relatively quick pace (rhymes in close proxmity, rapid listing + enjambment reflects speed of population growth) 
  • Transition of hyperbolic presentation of women to political climate 
  • Transcending time=women going throughout history + doing jobs for everybody 
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