Carol Ann Duffy – Analyses

In response to today’s class, below are some analyses for you to consider.


“We came from our own country”

There is a nostalgic, regretful TONE to the line which is created by the past tense. It implies that the writer is no longer in her own country – she is now displaced.

“As though this were a church and he a priest preparing to intone a mass”

A fairly lengthy SIMILE is used to compare the developing of photographs as just as important to the photographer as religion would be to a priest. It implies that the process is sacred to him.

“He plucked a pear from a branch – we grew Fondante d’Automne – and it sat in his palm, like a lightbulb. On.”

A comic TONE is created by the CAESURA in the line. The pear is the shape of the lightbulb. But Duffy delays the final word, so when it arrives it creates the same impact as the turning on of a light. The pear is suddenly bright.

“It’s fierce kiss will stay on your lips”

There is an OXYMORON here, or at least something which jars for the reader. A kiss which is fierce. This extends the broader idea of the poem, that this genuine love will not be all hearts and bows. The TONE is almost threatening when she explains that the effect of this kiss (a SYMBOL for love) will have a lasting, and not necessarily positive, impact.

“I miss most, even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.”

It is IRONIC that the thing Mrs Midas misses most is the thing which has driven them apart. She remembers touch as a romantic aspect of their relationship, and not the greedy touch which has separated them.

“big boys eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand”

The first half of this quotation makes use of a CLICHÉ of childhood – of frightening older boys eating worms – to emphasise how uncomfortable her childhood self was in her new space.

“Romance and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste”

Duffy develops an extended METAPHOR here: the characters in the plays (a metaphor for their love) are three senses – emphasising the physical pleasures of this relationship.

“The miles rushed back to the city, the house, the vacant rooms where we didn’t live anymore.”

We have a progression of IMAGES here, starting with the large “city” and gradually narrowing down to the specific “rooms” the family has left. This creates a powerful sense of loss, as the writer is pining for something very specific, and not just a vague sense of place.

“All childhood is an emigration”

A straightforward METAPHOR. Just as an emigration is a movement from one place to another, so childhood is a constant moving away from one’s youth. In this sense, every human being is an emigrant from their own childhood.

“he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice”

An almost comic progression of IMAGES as an ordinary glass is first transformed to t a metal goblet, and then to a golden chalice.

“the readers’ eyes prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers”

Duffy’s WORD CHOICE emphasises how little people will think about the images of war which the photographer has taken. The space of time between a Sunday morning bath and going to the pub is very small, and this reinforces how futile the photographer believes his impact to be.

“my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo, assonance: his touch a verb dancing in the centre of a noun”

This is a continuation of the poem’s central CONCEIT, that writing is a METAPHOR for love, romance and sex. Here, Duffy uses a series of METAPHORS, describing her body as a “rhyme”, an “echo” and “assonance”. What is key to these comparisons is that they all require at least two elements – like love – in order to work. Two words are required for rhyme; two sounds are needed for echo (a call and a response); at least two repeated vowel sounds are needed for assonance. If writing is a METAPHOR for love in the poem, this section makes clear that Hathaway’s love required her partner.