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”The Worlds Wife” by Carol Ann Duffy

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 705
  • Category: Poems

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“The problem with The Worlds Wife is that, having found one good joke, duffy just tells it over and over again” How far do you agree with this assessment? Refer to at least two or three poems in your answer.

Within The Worlds Wife Duffy explores the idea that men are inadequate. Although the book of poems does unveil feminist issues and coveys an inequality between men and women, it does also contain other issues such as social acceptance, self-confidence and love. Duffy places an interesting slant on a number of these poems that serves to establish the idea that feminism can be ironic.

Poems such as Anne Hathaway directly oppose the idea that Duffy is re-telling a ‘joke’ throughout the anthology. The poem creates a persona of Shakespeare widow and the best bed becomes the focus of the fourteen-line sonnet. In the opening two lines, Duffy uses a metaphor to express the magic of the bed in which Shakespeare made love to Hathaway “it is a spinning world of forests, castles, torchlight, cliff tops seas”. By using these metaphors, she embraces his talent and, when describing the notion that Shakespeare would ‘dive for pearls’ suggests he is somewhat a sexual athlete and far from inadequate. From line five to ten Duffy uses imagery in a fascinating way that relates directly to the fact Shakespeare was a writer. Anne sees her body as a “softer rhyme to his…. now assonance” followed by the personification of his torch “a verb dancing in the centre of a noun” giving the feeling of grace and delicacy.

The impression of Hathaway’s complete appreciation of Shakespeare talents suggests she sees his love making as an act of drama enacted through “touch”, “scent” and “taste”. Duffy writes that Hathaway wishes sometimes that Shakespeare had “written” her, illustrating her fascination with his artistic creation. The poem itself is not typical of the collection, expressing men in a much more respectful light. Therefore within this poem there is no evidence that Hatchway views Shakespeare as inadequate. The poem takes a tone of tenderness, and Duffy’s last lines are poignant. Anne Hathaway is full of rich imagery, the tale of women who remembers her husband in a wonderful loving way with no hint of sorrow.

The poem The Kray Sisters However, gives feminism and the idea that en are inadequate an unusual twist. The tone is crude and subversive and uses phrases such as ‘the belles of the balls’ to reference the ambiguity of The Kray Sisters sexuality. Duffy uses double meaning throughout the poem “protection” and Hunger ford Bridge” to lay emphasise on the cleverness of the twins themselves. It also subverts common phrases ‘a boyfriends for Christmas not just for life” to convey the tong in cheek edginess of the sisters. The ultimate irony of the poem is that, although the Kray sisters claim to be heavily feminist, instead of embracing their gender, they conform to men and become their equals. Duffy describes them wearing ‘savile row suits’ suggesting masculinity yet what the Kray sisters stand for completely dismisses everything about men. Therefore I believe this particular poem within the collection is ambiguous, although it supports the ‘joke’ it is also heavily ironic, more over Duffy is not re-telling the joke in an obvious way.

The poem ‘Little Red Cap’ however, supports the idea that, having found one jokes Duffy re-tells it throughout the anthology. Little red cap successfully introduces themes that are present throughout most of the collection, sexuality and male inadequacy are expressed within most of the poems, and little red cap is no exception. The poem presents men as weak and pathetic, much like ‘Thetis’, which shows men, can be overpowering and possessive. Throughout the poem, the woman is trying to escape the male figure, changing and conforming to many different animals in order to flee him, but all is in vein ‘I shrank myself to the size of a bird in the hand of a man. Sweet, sweet was the small song that I sang, till I felt the squeeze of his fist’ this portrays the male figure as possessive and dominating. These poems in particular prove to a certain extent that the assessment of the anthology is true.

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