Theme of motherhood - Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy, section B. English Literature revision (Exam: Thursay 12th January 2012)

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  • Created on: 07-01-12 23:57

The Devil's Wife

1. Dirt.

"Nobody's mam" 

No maternal instinct. Reason: She is bitter, taking out her vengence against the children. Been denied that sense of identity.

Subverts the traditional view of women being kind, caring and maternal "He made me bury a doll" children are seen as objects, merely toys that she plays with in order to get Brady's attention. 

Links with 'Thetis' trying to please men before having children.

The woman in this poem carries on doing these things until it ends her life. (Jail).

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Mrs Lazarus

"I heard his mother's crazy song".

The mother has gone crazy due to the loss of her son. Her emotions have lasted beyond his death. The wife is able to move on but the mother cannot as she can't bring herself to accept it.

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Frau Freud

"the squint of its envious solitary eye...cries feeling of pity..."

Women should pity the men because they cannot go through childbirth. Which Duffy conveys a message in the poem 'Pope Joan' that it brings you closer to God.

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Little Red Cap

"the glistening virgin white of my grandmother's bones".

It's up to the children to break free of the oppression against men. 

It's up to the new generation of womento have thier own voice and sexuality.

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Mrs Midas

The tone of the poem changes from one of humour to pathos when Mrs Midas realises that her natural instinct to become a mother cannot be fulfilled with Midas. It is at this point that she decides to end the relationship.

Carol Ann Duffy is commenting on the divide between materialistic greed of men and the natural instict of motherhood for women.

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Queen Herod

The story of Herod and the birth of Jesus is subverted and changed. 

Queen Herod is given a voice, an alternative explanation for Herod's actions: protection over her child fromthe heartbreak caused by men. It's the mother's protective instinct and how strong it is. 

A mother will go to great lengths to protect her daughter form her relationship.

The poem is exaggerated on how a mother feels and the daughters relationship with men. 

Language: Change in the pronoun from "I" to "We" shows that it is an experience that all mothers have.

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Carol Ann Duffy uses the character of Thetis to illustrate the ways in which women try to change themselves to please men. 

Every change or identity that a woman tries to become is changed by men. Such as the squeezing of the bird could be taking control of her innocence and freedom. 

When she becomes a mother at the end, she stops changing. She has her own identity, "when the child burst out." She has her own identity and it cannot be taken away from her by a man. 

Link: between myth/fictional characters to real women.

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Mrs Tiresias

Men are weak, given the ability to have children, they wouldn't be able to handle it.

Mrs Tiresias calls him selfish as she's had to deal with this for many years yet he has shown her no sympathy.

Mrs Tiresias becomes gay, suggests that only other women can fully understand the experience. 

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Could be interpreted as before and after childbirth.

Focuses on the warmth and happiness and completeness that a child can give you. 

No mention of a man/lover/father at all in the poem. Comes straight from the child.

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Pope Joan

At the start of the poem, Duffy talks about all the things that bring people closer to God. "burning frankinsence", "blessing the air". 

Later on, once she has had the baby, she feels closer to God, "lifting me, flinging me down". This suggests that God has taken over.

"In my miracle" - her own thing. 

"not a man or a pope at all" - her own identity.

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Naomi Lane

not relavant to the new WJEC specificatiion


Excuse me, Naomi? It was for AQA exam board. If you was looking for a specific set of revision cards tailored to that type of specification, it would be up to YOU to look for revision material tagged under the name of 'WJEC'. Thanks. 


A good starting point for exploring the theme of motherhood in Duffy's poetry; the points that are made can be expanded on and a really good way of using this resource would be to link the poems through the theme of motherhood - identifying both similarities and differences.

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