History and myth Essay
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‘The World’s Wife revises fairytale, history and myth and reworks it into contemporary, feminist fables. ‘ With reference to three of the poems in the volume examine the techniques employed by Duffy in writing contemporary feminist fables. Duffy’s volume “The World’s Wife” is a collection of dramatic monologues where Duffy becomes a ventriloquist inventing the words, which famous, silent, wives from history or myth might have said. Her use of humour and play on clichi?? s creates a collective female voice where dominant male characters are being criticised.
Duffy reworks contemporary feminist fables and adopts different personae by employing different techniques, which are particularly displayed in her poems, “Mrs Midas”, “Mrs Lazarus” and “Mrs Aesop”. Duffy’s use of witty humour in the poem “Mrs Aesop” allows her to condescend the male counterpart, by turning his famous fables against him and questioning his manhood. On the contrary, “Mrs Lazarus” portrays a more emotional persona grieving over her husband’s death, where her ‘other half’ fails to consider the impact of his return.
Similarly, in “Mrs Midas”, the male character is overcome by greed, blinding his ability to comprehend the repercussions of his actions. The metaphorical autobiographies allow Duffy to adopt a variety of dramatic personae and assume a multiplicity of voices, which portray issues and views sensitive to her own. She explores the notion of the self in relation to the other, particularly in the poem, “Mrs Midas”. The poet is able to present a wide range of emotions through the practical persona that feels a sense of exasperation due to her husband’s selfishness.
The sensual qualities of the persona are highlighted through the use of soft sounds, ‘breath… brow’, and ‘my fingers wiped the other’s glass’. She is then depicted as multitalented, especially in comparison to her husband who ‘was standing under the pear-tree snapping a twig’. His pointless and ridiculous activity belittles his usefulness and thus increasing his wife’s, as it does not require much talent to carry out such an activity.
The persona undertakes an anecdotal approach, principally when the tragedy is building up, belying the serious concern, ‘I said’ and ‘What in the name of God is going on? ‘ show the use of colloquial language, which help the persona’s voice emerge. The phrasing used throughout the poet emphasizes her practicality and ability to make sense out of any situation, ‘I served up the meal’ and ‘So he had to move out’, illustrate that she is not theatrical, but is calm and logical, which is a comparison to her partner’s childish and immature behaviour, ‘he toyed with his spoon’.
The persona is able to rise above him, assert her authority and her use of bitter sarcasm introduces comedy to the poem. Duffy’s use of the clichi?? , which is commonly present in her poems, is used to show how worthless he has become and how ashamed and fearful she is for him, as he is a ‘fool’ who could not think beyond his short-term greed. Similarly, “Mrs Lazarus”, also has to face the consequences of her husband’s return after she finally manages to deal with her grief over his death and move on.
The dramatic persona created in this poem is extremely loyal to her husband and devastated at the fact that she has lost ‘her other half’. ‘Howled, shrieked, clawed’ and ‘one empty glove’ reinforce the imagery of suffering and grief-stricken state. She is a persona very expressive of her emotions and goes through the entire pain of her loss, even to the extent where there are images of suicide because of what she is feeling, ‘double knot… round my bare neck’. The alliteration of soft, ‘slept.. single..
stuffed’ and harsh sounds, ‘gone… gutted… glove’, bring emphasis to the range of her emotional suffering. As her memory of him and grief is receding, she develops a more practical, factual tone in her diction, ‘Then he was gone’, showing that she has finally moved on. When her husband returns, her phrasing and diction changes and it begins to sound more harsh and bitter, ‘rotting… grave’s slack chew’, as a reflection of the fact that he is insensitive to her emotions, despite everything she has been through.