Carol Ann Duffy’s Techniques
What techniques has Carol Ann Duffy used in her poetry to make old stories and fables relevant to modern audiences? Comment on upon the use of language, imagery and structure. ‘Mrs. Faust’ is written in the casual, contemporary style which suits its setting and adds fittingly to the collection of ‘The Worlds Wife’. In this collection most poems explore the feminist principles or the modern state of them. This poem however, introduces a new issue to the collection; the materialistic nature of middle class couples.
Duffy transforms the ‘Faust Myth’, a protagonist of a classic German legend, into her own and uses a range of techniques in order to portray the dilemmas in modern society. By portraying these issues, Duffy is able to mimic the problems that afflict society. Duffy entices the reader with colloquial styled language and conversational openings. The pace of the opening and the poem in general reflects the pace of the couple’s relationship.
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By the opening of the poem being short and snappy the words, ‘Shacked up, split up, made up, hitched up’ completely lack any heart or passion which should be associated within a marriage or relationship. This suggests that their marriage was a mere convenience, removed of any emotion comparable to a business partnership reflecting their materialistic marriage; which also shows the superficiality of our society. ‘We worked. We saved. We moved again’, this quote demonstrates their business like marriage.
The chant of the pronoun ‘We’ emphasises that they were together in the materialistic sense due to the fact that the three events are neither loving or happen to develop their relationship. They seem to want to prosper yet developing the insatiable greed that partner’s ruthless ambition which continues to destruct the remains of their relationship. At the end of the second stanza there is a sense of foreboding in the up coming events involving their relationship, the quote ‘Faust’s face was clever, greedy, and slightly mad. I was as bad’.
Here Mrs. Faust is admitting that her obsession with ambition is equal to his. The reader learns that Mrs. Faust has the courage to admit her flaws, whereas Faust seems to be deflecting society’s taboo of ‘greed’, this foreshadows his future demise. Also the quote starts with ‘Faust’s face’, this refers to his physical appearance and implies to the reader that she does not know much about him other than what she can see and perhaps what she does see is a reflection of herself, which could link to the main reason of their attachment; similarity.
This is unusual in contrast to Duffy’s typical heroines like ‘Mrs. Quasimodo’, as they are usually the victims of their partner’s wrong doings, whereas Mrs. Faust recognises that in her marriage it took ‘two to tango’, reflecting the typical downfall of materialistic marriages. Furthermore, as the poem develops we see the remains of their relationship become non-existent. The reader can recognise the change in the way Mrs. Faust refers to her husband after the first stanza as ‘Faust’, a formal reference towards a husband instead of a more intimate pet name.
This reflects that business partnerships in the form of a marriage for a materialistic reason do not last long. Ironic changes in Faust then occur, he receives the power to become pope, a position that brings him close to God even though he has constructed a deal with the Devil. However this relationship with God seems to have no effect on him as soon after he is taking part in things that have a negative effect on other people and his soul, which he has yet to sell. ‘Invested in smart bombs, in harms, Faust dealt in arms. Faust got in deep, got out. Bought farms, cloned sheep.
Faust surfed the internet for like-minded Bo Peep’, once again the pace is extremely fast, reflecting how his power in the world is growing; the quicker the pace the more powerful he seems to be. However even though his power seems to grow his respect for society’s morals seem vanish. Fighting and cloning sheep could be deemed respectable in society however surfing the internet for ‘like-minded Bo Peep’, implying half witted young girls, would be deemed as taboo in society. Duffy uses imagery in order to indicate particular issues that damage society.
Duffy uses sexual imagery to add humour as well as to pinpoint the issues. ‘The world spread its legs’, in this quote the term ‘Spread its legs’ is a sexual reference associated with women. This suggests that Faust’s understands the world to be a way to ‘spread’ his success. Also, to Faust, the world is just another female to devour and another pleasurable object in which he can explore, that is always ‘open’ for him. This raises the issue of feminism, another concern that modern society tackles and another strong theme that is linked to many of Duffy’s poems.
By Faust being a powerful man in society and seeing females and the world as a mere object to use to his advantage, this quote suggests that this is how most men see the world to be, an object that is below their being, one that they are free to control as this is the impression society gives. The poem is filled with images that contrast both men and women’s actions. Faust is gaining knowledge both physically and mentally, while Mrs. Faust is changing herself physically and mentally in order to adapt herself to his changing life. Faust walked on the moon, golfed a hole in one’, this quote suggests the perfection of his life as to walk on the moon is to be above everyone else and to get a hole in one is to achieve perfection. However this contrasts with the state of Mrs. Faust’s life. ‘Had a face lift, had my breasts enlarged, my buttocks tightened’, once again, like Faust’s the quote is short and fast paced which reflects her quick adaption. By Mrs. Faust changing her appearance it suggests she is not happy with her life due to the fact her husband’s ambition and need for knowledge are far more important to him.
Another reference to materialism as his work and being at the top of society seem to consume his every thought, whereas the things that are important seem to be long forgotten. This quote also reflects how men’s opinions of women are very important as they have the power to change a women’s perspective on herself. This is occurring with Mrs. Faust, the higher her husband gets up the social ladder the less attention he pays to her and therefore her self esteem drops to the point where she is buying herself a new physical image. Like most poems in ‘The World’s Wife’, ‘Mrs.
Faust’ is a dramatic monologue in which Duffy uses the voice of a wife to portray the true feelings of society. Even though Duffy uses collective pronouns such as ‘We’ throughout the poem, Faust has no contributions to the poem, as he is too self involved. This hyperboles how alone Mrs. Faust actually is. This also portrays her reluctance to let go of the lifestyle that she loved dearly. This is shown at the end of the poem, as Faust is being dragged to hell by the Devil; he pokes his hand up ‘through the terracotta Tuscan tiles. Even at this moment of suspense she is keen to inform the reader that her kitchen is the correct style also in a way saying that Faust went down in style. As the poem draws to a close the language becomes more colloquial when her husband gets dragged by the devil, she responds in a famous French saying ‘C’est la vie’ a casual yet effective way to end the poem. It shows how little she cares as this is similar to a shrug of the shoulders as she deals with a minor problem, hardly a loving response to her husband’s demise. This highlights how their marriage was othing but a relationship of convenience. This quote reflects the whole poem by rounding up the issues that have arisen and stating that this is how life works, with issues that need to be changed and yet we pay no heed. Duffy concludes with this quote that if society carries on the way it is going then something as hellish as being carried away to hell will be nothing out of the ordinary. In this poem Duffy illustrates that even though people don’t sell their soul to the devil, they are corrupted by power. i got an A- hope it helps