How does Duffy powerfully portray the experience of losing a friend in ‘Dream of a Lost Friend’? In this poem, Duffy explores how the tragic loss of a close friend affects the mourner, and powerfully portrays the implications of their death using imagery, structure and emotive language. She touches upon each of the 5 stages of grief and bereavement, and conveys the psychological process of each of these: Denial, Anger, Guilt, Depression and Acceptance. Denial is the first stage of grief, in which the mourner refuses to believe that their loss is a reality.
Duffy is effective in portraying how this makes the experience of losing a friend so powerful, as she shows Firstly, the title suggests that Duffy refuses to accept her friend’s death, as she refers to her as ‘lost’, suggesting that like the word lost connotes, the deceased may have a chance of being found again. Duffy constantly refers to oxymorons and opposites through the poem such as ‘prayers to Chemistry.’
This suggests again a hysteric confusion over her death, which clash, and reveals her contrasting thoughts which could reflect her trying to accept this death whilst still denying it. Duffy also searches for ‘found’, the opposite to the lost in the title, but she never mentions it, as if no amount of other opposites will help her find the opposite of this death. Duffy also conveys the notion of denial through the sentence, ‘it’s only a dream…only a bad dream.’ This repetition of the motif of dreaming shows an obsession with the idea of this death being part of a dream.
Dreams have connotations of peace and happiness, as if she is convincing herself that her friend is experiencing some escapism from the pain of her disease, as Duffy wants to believe that this is for the best. As dreams are from the lexicon of sleep, it is as if she wants to prove that she will wake up.
That this is just a brief period of detachment from the world before she comes back, ascertaining the truth that denial is a major part of bereavement. The repetition of ‘it’s only a dream’ becomes like a mantra, which is a technique used to ‘create transformation’, as Duffy tries convince herself. A mantra is also reminiscent of childhood, like a playground rhyme. This proves that these emotions stir up a sense of being lost, and returning to a time of innocence and comfort, when accepting becomes too difficult, the mourner morphs into their childhood self. This sense of being lost could also refer to the poem title, as it could be applicable to the mourner as well, as they are too a ‘lost friend.’
This idea of being one and the same as the deceased suggests that still consider themselves as equal, living entities, and that death does not separate them. Duffy also explains the process of denial through the chosen structure for the poem juxtaposing the journey of grief. With grief, you start with a strong sense of denial and conclude the worst of the immediate mourning with acceptance of their death. However, this poem starts with the personal pronoun of ‘you’ and travels through each other party/person before reaching ‘you’ once more. Duffy starts the first stanza with ‘You’, the second with ‘We’, the next with the idea of ‘Them’, then ‘I’ and finally ‘You.’
This proves that through Duffy’s structure, she shows the powerful experience of grief, and shows that she always puts her friend first, then their time together. Her bitter memories of those who don’t understand are soon swept away by the thought of herself and how important her friend was to her, concluding with ‘You.’ This could be interpreted to show that Duffy is stating that she never really completed the journey of bereavement, but is instead stuck in a cyclical roundabout that always comes back to the thought of her friend. This shows how she mentally is determined to bring her back, but the fact that this journey is incessantly recurring proves that this will never happen.
The next stage of bereavement is Anger. Carol Ann Duffy expresses her anger in the third stanza and emphatically emphasises the powerful effect this has as one repercussion of losing a friend. She shows how death can make you turn against those closest to you. She almost implies ‘Some of our best friends nurture a virus, an idle, charmed, purposeful enemy, and it dreams they are dead already.’ This suggests that Duffy makes dichotomy between herself and her friend against the outside world, including their other friends.
The word ‘our’ is placed first, as if to re-connect the bond between Duffy and the deceased, and so Duffy joins forces with the deceased against the world, as if they are to blame. Then the second half of the sentence starts with ‘they’, as if ‘they’ should always come second, and are to blame. The use of these pronouns separates them into two groups, and implies that Duffy is angry at the rest of the world for taking away her friend.