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Stealing by Carol Ann Duffy

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The character in the poem has a very negative personality and outlook on life. In the poem the thief comes across as cold, uncaring, egotistical, destructive and nasty. The poet portrays this by effective word choice when describing the thief’s feelings and actions. “the slice of ice within my own brain” This shows that the thief has very cold thoughts and that in his mind he has suffered previous emotional damage, which has resulted in psychological problems for him. This is an important simile in showing how the thief has mental torment, which has affected his life.

Another way in which the author shows to us the character’s negativity is through his motives for stealing. “Part of the thrill was knowing that children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough” He steals because he likes the thrill, the excitement of doing wrong or emotionally affecting others. By enjoying upsetting other people we get the impression that he is selfish and inconsiderate. Also that he wants to teach them a lesson, he wants them to hate life and to hurt the same way he does.

Due to his general hate for the world and society he has pent up anger and aggression. I took a run and booted him. Again. Again. ” He can become violent, for what seems, no reason. This shows he is dangerously unpredictable and is capable of destroying something he previously valued. Also through the poet’s language we get the feeling that the character is a habitual thief. “gloved hand” “most unusual thing I ever stole? ” By saying the thief covered his tracks by using gloves, it suggests that he is experienced enough to not make mistakes. Also from the opening question, we get the impression that he has committed the same crime more than once.

But, despite all his uncaring, cold personality, the poet effectively makes the reader feel sympathetic towards the thief. This effectively brings the character to life, by making him more three-dimensional. The reader becomes torn between the two sides as the character portrays a lonely, depressed side to his personality. This brings extra information about the thief’s past life and makes the reader wonder about why he is the way he is. At the beginning of the poem we see how the thief seeks friendship in a cold and inanimate object; the snowman.

This shows that he is inexperienced in friendship and has been deprived of having someone to trust. He is unaware that friendship is associated with warmth, so he seeks someone/something that’s as cold as he is. He is an outsider in society and assumes that people don’t understand him. “You don’t understand a word I’m saying do you? ” He is misunderstood and doesn’t expect people to try and accept how he feels or understand why he does what he does. The character appears to have a hard life, which has ultimately decided his fate; to exact revenge, but not directly on those who have hurt him.

The story of the character is continued by bringing in his motives for committing senseless crimes, which is also one of the main themes in the poem; exploring motives for a senseless, non-beneficial crime and examining other people’s attitude to life. In ‘Stealing’, the character has very clear reasons for breaking the law. “Boredom. Mostly I’m so bored I could eat myself” The thief’s lack of hobbies leads to him stealing. It’s his way of passing time, but it doesn’t appear to make him happy. This boredom is quite significantly affecting him, to the point of causing himself harm.

The thief’s motives also reflect his attitude to life. He has no drive to relieve his boredom in another way, he has no desire to make his life more interesting or to make himself happy. He is afraid of socialising with others, so he shies away from active hobbies and further distances himself by stealing. He has no will to lead a meaningful life. The poet has very effectively brought this side of the character through, and it adds a lot of questions to the previous life the thief led and what had happened in the past that has caused him such damage.

He also seeks revenge on society for the pain and disappointment he has experienced in his, what seems, miserable existence. “I’m a mucky ghost, leave a mess” He leaves a mess because he wants to cause inconvenience for others. He enjoys knowing that they will have to go to the trouble of cleaning up after him. He does things to people in name of revenge on society, as they have no benefits financially to him. “Sometimes I steal things I don’t need” The thief is exacting his unsatisfactory revenge on society for pain he has felt.

Due to the character’s lack of living a normal life, he craves to know what it’s like as he is jealous of it and also of other’s ability to be creative, these factors also drive him to crime. “I nicked a bust of Shakespeare once” The thief steals things, which are a creative symbol or are part of a creative pastime. The Shakespeare bust was a significant icon for creativity, as Shakespeare is one of the most famous creative writers of all time. The thief has also stolen a guitar, which is made useful through the player’s creativity and ability to play.

Then there is the snowman, which is created by the active and creative minds of young children. He is clearly jealous of the normal life others get to lead, he feels as though he has missed out. He invades others privacy, just in order to see what a normal life is like. He also steals things such as cameras, which would have images of a family’s life. “maybe pinch a camera” “A stranger’s bedroom” The character wants to feel like he is part of something normal, so he’ll enter someone’s room, in order to see part of them and their room would reflect who they are and their life.

The camera is of significance as it would contain images of another person’s life and he wants to see that, he wants to know it and the photos would be the closest way he can come to actually experiencing it. We get a really good sense of the thief’s character thought the way the poem was written. The poet has used the very effective technique of writing the poem as a monologue. By doing it this way the reader can get a clear sight into the way the character is feeling and what his/her personality is like.

It also helps give the character’s story more impact, as the reader gets to hear it from the person who is experiencing it, someone who can show raw feelings. In the case of the thief his callous feelings can be shown a lot more powerfully and also his motives for crime come through much clearer than it would be if it was written in 3rd person, his life present and past have much more impact. It’s easier to understand how he feels and what he’s been thought from the monologue because we are able to get a sense of character.

The style of monologue captures our interest as the character has the ability to come to life and adopt a persona, as they tell things in their own words. Techniques used within the monologue that are effective are the use of minor sentences and enjambement. “I took a run and booted him. Again. Again” These techniques build up tension, power and the force of violence, they also provide extra emphasis on how the thief hates or of his pain. Another way the poet maintains my interest through the monologue is by the use of rhetorical questions and the informal tone and slang used.

The most unusual thing I ever stole? ” “a mate” “daft” The use of rhetorical questions promotes a sense of conversation between the thief and another party. The informal tone and slang make the character seem more real as it imitates the pattern of speech and the thief comes to life. All of the techniques the poet has used from slang to writing it as a monologue have created an effective style of telling the story of a particular character, in this case, the thief. The styles used have all helped add to my enjoyment of the poem, and get a clear insight into the character’s life.

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