Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife

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Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Other half is a collection of poems primarily based around legend, myth and fairytale. All of these poems feature male characters or referrals to them. Little Red Cap, the first poem featured in the collection uses the story of Little Red Riding Hood to represent men as wolves 'In his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw'. She implies that males threaten and violent.

'The wolf, I understood would lead me deep into the woods, away from house, to a dark twisted thorny location'.

'One bite, dead. How great, breakfast in bed, he said.' Likewise, Duffy indicates the manipulative nature of males. 'Lesson one that night, breath of the wolf in my car, was the love poem'. The poem shows Duffy's view that men are weak and easy to tempt with potential customers of satisfaction of the flesh. 'I made quite sure he spotted me, sweet sixteen, never ever been, babe, waif, and purchased me a beverage'.

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This poem depicts in various derogatory terms, showing an attack on men in general. Thetis, the next poem to be discovered in the collection, takes a look at males from a different perspective. Whereas Little Red Cap represents men as weak and pathetic, Thetis shows how males can be overpowering and possessive. Throughout the poem, the woman is trying to get away from the man. She changes herself into several animals in order to run away from him, but it is all in vain. 'I diminished myself to the size of a bird in the hand of a male.

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Sweet, sweet was the small tune that I sang, till I felt the capture of his fist'. This presents the reader with a really powerful, manly image, depicting males as controling and taking in. 'Mermaid, me, big fish, eel, dolphin, over the waves the angler came with his hook, his line and his sinker'. Nevertheless much she tries, the woman can not get away the man in her life'. Mrs Tiresias, a poem explaining the sex modification of the storyteller's hubby might be viewed as one of the most sexist poems in the collection.

In the poem, Duffy mocks men, ridiculing them for showing weakness. In particular, lines 43-46, describing the man, very distressed at starting his period, ridicule men for not being able to cope with such trivial things that women have to cope with all the time. At the end of the poem the narrator spites the man by introducing him to her lover, a female. This is Duffy being derisive towards men, gaining the last laugh, for when the man leaves the narrator to become a woman; she gets him back in the most ironic and spiteful way possible.

Queen Herod is a blatant attack on men, the entire poem being centred around the killing of men to protect the Queen's innocent daughter. She orders each mother's son to be killed so her daughter will not get her heart broken. Duffy uses various derogatory terms to refer to men including: 'Adulterer, Bigamist, the Wolf, the Rip, the Rake, the Rat, the heartbreaker, the Ladykiller'. This poem accuses men of being malicious and selfish towards women and implies that women are always right in these assumptions. Mrs Faust is certainly very critical of men.

In this poem, Duffy projects men as greedy: 'He wanted more' adulterous: 'Then take his lust to Soho in cab' and frivolous: 'Faust was Cardinal, Pope, knew more than God, flew faster than the speed of sounds around the globe, lunched; walked on the moon, golfed, hole in one; lit a fat Havana on the sun'. I can agree that feminism is a strong theme in The World's Wife; however, there are exceptions to this. Anne Hathaway is not ridiculing men in anyway it is merely celebrating love.

The poem is made up of the reflections of Anne Hathaway (William Shakespeare's wife) about their life together. She reminisces about the way he touched and spoke to her: 'A verb, dancing in the centre of a noun' and how she still remembers their romance and passion. I conclude that, although The World's Wife could be viewed as quite sexist, a closer examination of the content of the collection, for example the inclusion of Anne Hathaway contradicts the statement that the collection is a 'callous feminist attack on men'.

Updated: Jun 05, 2020
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Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife. (2017, Aug 18). Retrieved from

Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife essay
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