Carol Ann Duffy Explores The Theme of Childhood
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A common theme in many of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems is childhood. Most of her poems include some element of childhood. The perspective of her poems are rarely in that of a child’s, as she often explores the themes of childhood by referring to the characters childhood memories. However in some of her poems she explores the theme of childhood through the characters. Duffy has written about her own personal experiences but has inverted the poems to address the audience as many readers from the same decade would have experienced the same scenarios as Duffy explores in her poems
This is particularly true in the poem “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class”. In “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class Duffy presents childhood as an innocent stage of a person’s life where they are engrossed in this metaphorical “perfect” world within the classroom, away from the dangerous outside world. This ‘perfect’ world portrayed by Duffy shows and emphasises childrens innocence at this time in their lives. The child in this poem says “this was better than home” and “the classroom glowed like a sweet shop” portraying the image of perfection within the childs mind. Innocence is one of the ways in which Duffy explores childhood in her poems.
“Litany” also explores the theme of childhood and like many of Duffy’s other poeoms uses the theme of childhood, to signify the loss of innocence. Duffy uses the character in the poem to explore the theme of childhood. Litany is about the construction of a false world, with children being protected from anything unsavoury such as ‘cancer’ and ‘leukaemia.’ The whole poem is in a formal tone to mirror the setting of the ‘false world’ portrayed. However the young child then says to their mother that ‘a boy in the playground, told me to fuck off.’ This immediatley contrasts with the setting of the formal tone, it shocks and manipulates the reader into giving an emotive response. The child has learnt the power of language and knows that what their saying is offensive. The use of the words ‘fuck off’ show the beginning of the childs loss of innocence.
Duffy’s poem ‘Lizzie, six’ is predominantly about childhood, but unlike the many of her other poems, the theme of childhood is not explored through memories but through the characters within the poem. ‘Lizzie, six’ is about a young child experiencing sexual abuse. The poem is in the perspective of two people, Lizzie, the young child and the abuser. The structure of the poem shows the speech alternating from each of the characters. The main theme in the poem seems to be loss of innocence as the Lizzie’s abuser has taken it away from her. Lizzie’s speech symbolises her youth and naivety of the world, shown clearly when she says she’s ‘watching the moon,’ whereas the abuser’s actions symbolise the harshness of life, shown when he says ‘I do not care’. Juxtaposition is shown through the contrasting of the Lizzie’s immature language and the cruelty of the abusers language. ‘Lizzie, six’ explores the bad experiences of some peoples childhood. This view of childhood contrasts the ‘perfect’ view of childhood shown in “In Mrs Tilscher’s Class.”
Carol Ann Duffy also explores the theme of childhood through “Stealing.” Stealing is about a young boy who steals because he is bored. Often the things he steal are of no significant importance to him. The character presents signs of being selfish and full of self pity saying things such as ‘lifes tough.’ The child in this poem seems to have had a hard life. There is no mention of family and this makes the reader question where his family are. The child seems to resent his life and his situation and that’s why he steals a snowman, saying ‘part of the thrill was knowing that children would cry in the morning.’ The poem is in a first person, dramatic monologe and this enables the reader to have an insight into the mind of the boy. Duffy has explored the theme of childhood via the character. It relates to many of her other poems where the dominent theme is childhood as it shows that this experience may affect the child in later life, possibly affecting the child mentally as shown in “education for leisure” and “psychopath.”
Another of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems that explore the theme of childhood is “The captain of the 1964 top of the form team” the poem is a dramatic monolouge in the voice of the captain of the team but as a grown man, again Duffy is exploring the theme of childhood through the childhood memories of an adult. The captains memories portray childhood as the best time of his life. In his childhood he felt hat he was destined to be great, but as the poem shows he has become nothing of importance.
The poem shows the man who was once captain of the ‘top of the form team’ living an unsatisfying life. He describes his kids as ‘thick’ and his wife as ‘stale’ showing his bitter view on his life. The structure is set out like many of Duffy’s other poems with the alternation of past memories and presant thoughts. The contrast in the different voices show the voice of the young boy who seems very happy and exited about his future, contrasting with the adult man whos tone seems bitter throughout the duration of the poem. The man shows a lack of responsibility for the fact that his life has not gobe accordingly, and this is a childish trait, showing he is still stuck in the past. “The captain of the 1964 top of the form team” also presents the consistent theme of loss of innocence as, as a child the young boy was content with life but as the experiences of life took its toll on him and the young boy grew into a man who became bitter and resentful of his life. Signifying that the experiences we endure in life take away our innocence as we become more aware of the harshness that life incures.
“Psychopath” is another of Duffy’s poems in which she explores the theme of childhood. It is about a grown man at a fairground with a young woman. He tries to have sex with her and when she declines he rapes her. Carol Ann Duffy uses dramatic monologue to give the reader an insight into the activities of a serial killer, who rapes his victims and then kills them. Carol Ann Duffy explores the theme of childhood through the memories of the grown man in the poem. The poem swaps between the thoughts of the man’s present and the memories of the man’s past. This insight into his past suggests why he is as described, a “psychopath.” The man’s childhood memories show his first sexual experience and this memoriy from his past suggests why he is a rapist, as his on his first sexual encounter ‘dirty Alice’ ‘jeered’ at his ‘dick’ and therefore he desires the power in his sexual conquests. Similarlt to the character in “The captain of the 1964 top of the form team” the character in “Psychopath” shows no responsibility for his own actions. It is suggested in the poem that this early rejection led to him feeling insecure sexually, this may have led to him being a ‘jack the lad, ladies’ man’ and furthermore, led to him becoming a rapist.
In conclusion Carol Ann Duffy explores the theme of childhood through the memories of the characters and sometimes through the child presented in the poem. The main idea of the poems is that childhood represents innocence and it is the experiences of life the takes away the innocence that children hold. The loss of innocece seems to be an inevitable part of growing up and the problem would occur if we kept our innocence throughout our adulthood. Also through her poems she shows that the experiences that we receive during our cildhood affect us in our later life.