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“Duffy takes a cheeky, subversive, no nonsense swipe at men of history and myth. ” – The Times ‘The World’s wife’ a series of witty dramatic monologues spoken by women formally airbrushed from fairy tales and myths. Duffy presents Penelope as a woman who grows more independent of her husband as she initially casually passes time by embroidering.
Duffy subverts the male dominance of these tales by demonstrating how unlike in the original myth, Penelope grows accustomed to Odysseus’ absence as embroidery becomes the focal point of her life.
In the ‘World’s Wife’ Duffy makes women the protagonists of the stories and therefore subverts the idea of weak women behind powerful men. To understand why Duffy would choose to write the ‘World’s wife’ one must understand her own political ideologies.
Carol Ann Duffy, ‘feminist and leftish’ as time. com puts, is the first female poet Laurette, furthermore she is the first ‘openly gay’ poet laureate as Duffy describes herself. Duffy proves her feminist viewpoints herself as she admitted in an interview she only accepted the title of poet laureate not because she wanted to, but because there have been ‘no other female’ poet laureates in the past.
The motif of embroidery is used by Duffy to present Penelope’s growing independence.
Penelope first embroiders a rather simplistic images of a ‘girl’ under a ‘single star’ however as the poem digresses she embroiders more adventurous things such as ‘a snapdragon gargling a bee’ this technique shows how the confidence of the female voice grows as as Penelope’s mind becomes focused soley on embroidering and not on the absence of her husband where she had previously hoped to see him ‘saunter home’.
The use of ‘I’ in the poem emphasizes the new female dominance of this tale through Duffy’s technique.
The themes and ideas of the poem have to go through Penelope ‘I chose between three greens for the grass’ here we see Penelope’s embroidery allows her to remove herself from the social constraints of ancient society, she is free to do as she wishes. The world she creates in her embroidery becomes the world she chooses to live in, while this does show the strength of the female voice, it could be argued that Duffy’s message is that Penelope needs embroidery to be a powerful woman. It still remains that the world, the real world outside the realms of her ‘cloth and scissors’ is still one where man dominates.
Thetis’ also shows the empowering of a woman as the poem progresses, in this poem Duffy again repeats ‘I’ seventeen times in order to present the growing voice and confidence of women, in addition Duffy presents ‘Thetis’ as a woman who transforms into a stronger animal as the poem evolves, for example she transforms from a ‘Dolphin’ to a ‘Whale, the ocean’s opera singer’. Her voice becomes louder with each transformation, the animals she turns into are all known for their ability to survive, resembling how ‘Penelope’ survives without her husband.
Duffy shows Penelope’s inner conflict by using different stanzas; using the Spenserian stanza’ , Duffy shows that while the irregular lines symbolize the female voice’s indecision, the consistent use of nine line stanzas symbolizes the female voice’s composure found in embroidery. As Penelope becomes more engrossed in her embroidery her view on reality widens, her life is depicted in her embroidery as she describes her ‘thimble’ using the simile, like an ‘acorn pushing up from the soil’.
This symbolizes how embroidery has become her rebirth and new found voice of independence from her husband. More over, Duffy uses enjambment ‘I sorted cloth, and scissors, needle. thread Thinking to amuse myself’ throughout the poem in order to convey how embroidery has taken over Penelope’s life, the enjambment imitates the movement of the needle and therefore illustrates to the reader how embroidery seamlessly takes over Penelope’s life like it does in the poem.
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