Challenging Female Stereotypes through Poetry (Carol Ann Duffy’s Salome)

Categories: Carol Ann Duffy

‘Duffy challenges traditional female stereotypes through her portrayal of Salome’ How much do you agree with this statement?

In the poem Salome Duffy challenges the traditional female stereotypes through her portrayal as Salome takes a dominant role in the short relationships she becomes engaged in. Salome was the daughter of King Herod in the bible and demanded John the Baptist head on a plate. Instead of the exploitation of women Salome takes a role reversal and uses the men she meets to fulfil her addiction of killing men.

The poem suggests that Salome is the type of character that sleeps with loads of men, “Simon? Andrew? John?” The names mentioned in the poem are the names of disciples signifying how highly Salome regards herself. Salome also says that she should “turf out the blighter” showing she’s in control, also displaying the power she has over the man she has slept with, compared to the normal stereotypical women who would be given the orders not giving them.

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Duffy also uses Salome to degrade men and imply they are not very intelligent going against female stereotypes. The simile “like a lamb to the slaughter” illuminates to the idea men are stupid and are easily seduced and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. It goes against the ‘dumb blonde stereotype’ of women and men perhaps are also guilty of this as well. The predatory nature of Salome is also uncharacteristic of women, who are generally seen as the weaker and feebler of the two sexes.

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“I needed to clean up my act” “cut out the booze and the fags and the sex” indicate her life as meaningless and insufficient as these are slang words and fail to produce class or real pleasure in their meaning. Showing she does them more to fit in rather than through enjoyment. The format of the final stanza is structured differently compared with the previous stanzas. There is no specific format in the stanzas as they are set out carelessly with no real direction or rhyming scheme, representing the woman’s causal approach to what she did perhaps highlighting the fact that not all women are organised and in control of their lives.

However Duffys writes that Salome “rang for the maid” which shows stereotypical female characterisations are present. The fact that it is a women who must bring her breakfast in bed highlights that not all women are like Salome. The everyday words such as “fags” “booze” and “butter” are mixed in with the idea of the killing giving connotations that Salome sees this control over men as an everyday theme. The slang and colloquial language show she is unfeeling and carelessness which is unusual for a women.

The Rhyme scheme is full of –er suffixes and this playful tone masks the sinister tone of violence which is an ongoing theme throughout the play. The word “batter” could be a reference to domestic abuse, however that is reversed as it is Salome who kills the man.

To conclude I agree with this statement as Duffy does challenge female stereotypes by making Salome take on the characteristics of a stereotyped man. She takes on a violent and commanding tone, ordering her maid and beheading her lover. She does not act like a stereotypical women, would perhaps cleaning or following her lover’s instructions she is the complete opposite.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Challenging Female Stereotypes through Poetry (Carol Ann Duffy’s Salome). (2024, Feb 03). Retrieved from

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