Interesting Ideas for English Literature Poems HAVISHAM

Original analysis and insight on different poems in the Literature section of the Anthology.

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'Havisham' written by Carol Ann Duffy is a dramatic monologue spoken by the character from Dickens' 'Great Expectations'. Jilted at the alter by her ex fiance, she continues to wear her wedding dress and sits amongst her wedding breakfast for the rest of her life, while plotting her bitter revenge on all men.

Interesting Insight
1) 'Havisham' - The title
She hates her spinster state; of which her unmarried family name constantly reminds her. Because her surname has not changed, it shows that the marriage has been unsuccessful. This shows that even her name makes reminds her of her angst and depression towards her ex fiance, showing the depth of her hatred. The poet refers solely to her surname only, emphasizing her lack of marital state. It suggests a loss of status and sets the tone for the whole poem.

2) 'Ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with' - line 4.
Readers who know Dickens' novel well might think at this point about Miss Havisham's daughter, Estella. Her natural mother, Molly has strangled a rival, and has unusually strong hands. Therefore the reader could interpret that Duffy has made comparisons between her adopted mother and her biological mother.

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Havisham 2

3) 'Beloved sweetheart *******' - line 1
This line creates a contrast between love and hate, and the confusion of the character becomes apparent through this oxymoron. This opening line could also portray the order of events: the man she describes was someone special but soon became someone she hated. This phrase also shows alliteration that helps links these words together to show how these conflicting emotions are linked inside her. The jumbled syntax illustrates her bitterness and confusion.

4) 'Love's / hate behind a white veil: a red balloon busting in my face' - line 13/14
Love is personified and the narrator describes herself in this way. The fact that love enjoys hurting her is emphasized with a description of a balloon. Balloons are supposed to be fun like love, but in this instance it becomes something shocking and ready to spoil her happiness. This red balloon could be compared to her heart, and red is a passionate colour with connotations of love and anger. There is a close link between the two extreme emotions.

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Havisham 3

5) 'Don't think it's only the heart that b-b-b-breaks' - line 16
This come out as a stutter, showinf her sadness and anger towards her situation. When she anounces it is not only the heart that breaks, it could remind the reader of the protagonist of 'Great Expectation's Pip. She's been hurt and knows how to break a man's heart. In the case of Pip she wants to crush his dreams of gaining an education. She could also be thinking of her Mind - her sense of reason has 'broken' too. This dramtic touch makes her more real to the reader, emphasizing the sorrow.

6) 'Whole days in bed cawing 'Nooooo' at the wall' - line 5/6
This line shows reference to her age, but not having lived. The word 'cawing' is that of a bird, high pitched animal shows how mush she has lost her sanity and lack of humanity. It also creates imagery of a bird, which creates contrast as a bird could create connotations of freedom and flying, while Havisham is stuck in the past and trapped in her sorrow. She is so emotional she only emits sounds and calls, showing more loss of humanity.

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Anjelica Phoebe Barbe


Some interesting ideas I found while browsing the web...

Rate & Comment : all feedback welcome!

Hope this helps!



Really helpful and detailed. Some really good points that I never would have thought of. :)

Vasu Dev


thanks miss/mrs anjelica,

These insights are indeed insightful.

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