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'The World's Wife': Carol Ann Duffy

NOTE: This post is taken from my very first blog, and as such, I have essentially kept it the same, along with the date published. Yes, it was long ago.

Born 1955 in Glasgow, has a CBE, FRSL, and was appointed Poet Laureate in 2009. Also a playwright, Duffy is renowned for her work as a poet, exploring both everyday experiences and language itself through her work.



Cover of 'The World's Wife'

This collection of poems can be viewed as a celebration of women and an attack on men. I disagree highly, though, with the belief that this collection is nothing but the two (many have claimed so!); the poet comments on aspects of human nature and raises questions about the structure of our society. Of course, it is overtly feminist in comparison to Duffy's work written beforehand, but combined with Duffy's witty sense of humour, provides an enjoyable read. After all, the poet has stated that her work aims to piece together cleverly what may seem to be simple strings of words, hence the accessibility of her work.

A FEW THEMES TO PICK UP ON: Women's Struggle for Identity (AS Literature students!), Social Flaws, Flaws of the Stereotypical Male, Relationships, Love, Fickle Aspects of Language, Change and Improvement, Mythology, Religion

Now, Duffy empowers women through her work by giving a voice to these female counterparts of male figures well-known in history, mythology, religion, fairytales, etc. These dramatic monologues are also implicit of an audience, which heightens the sense of a need to learn from the narrator's words, but also emphasise the lack of power for women throughout time.

The 'power of the tale' is no small matter within our society: myths and fairytales have been used throughout time in order to convey certain messages, which have been in the form of morals, but also exist as depictions of attributes such as greed or love. Adaptation of such common stories within literature to convey the writer's own message more aptly is found often in feminist writing (The Bloody Chamber and other Stories by Angela Carter), and this revisionism allows Duffy to highlight the intricacies of inequality which, as proved by the existence of the tales themselves, have clearly rooted themselves deeply within society today.

The reader's movement from poem to poem is also important to note, as with any collection, and taking the first and last poems (Little Red Cap and Demeter) presents growth and development, perhaps of the poet herself; should each narrator be interpreted as a representative of womankind as a whole, thereby making each one part of a whole entity, the beginning marks the initial and disturbing collision between the female and male, with the journey ending in hope for the future.

If you're currently studying this collection in preparation for your exam on the theme of 'The Struggle for Identity in Modern Literature', I can say that I've been through the same process of self-torture. As much as I love analysis, and perhaps even essays, I hate writing under timed pressure. Just remember that you can't pack your head with too much information. The more you know, and the better you know it, the more easily it comes out in an exam!

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