Duffy’s presentation of men in ‘The World’s wife’ could be considered to be ‘entirely hostile’, as it is a factor which is present across many pieces in her collection of work. However, this view point can also be argued against with a critical assessment of both men and women’s representation throughout the collection.
Of all the poems in the collection, I believe ‘Thetis’ to be the most supportive of this view, as it comes across as the poem filled with the most criticizes towards men. Throughout Thetis, it is clear that the speaker is changing forms from each stanza to the next; ‘I shrank myself..’, ‘So I shopped for a suitable shape.’, ‘Next I was roar..’. Through each individual form, there is something that stops them, captures them; ‘till I felt the squeeze of his fist.’ In my opinion, this reoccurrence throughout the poem is a metaphor for domestic violence.
The woman is trying to be free and independent and each time she tries to escape, the man suppresses her. This is clearly supportive of the view’s perception of Duffy’s hostility to men, in the poems. The language Duffy uses in Thetis also supports the view. Her choice of wording when talking about the male side of the fight for freedom in the poem is very dark and violent. Using such phrases as; ‘I felt the squeeze of his fist.’, ‘grasp of his strangler’s clasp’, ‘sharpened his knives’.
This could be interpreted as a criticism towards men, as they are generally much more violet than women. Another pattern that stands out to me, when thinking in this view, is the hissing sound that occurs in every stanza. ‘Sweet, sweet’, ‘stranger’s clasp’. That repeated sound, could be interpreted as men’s output in the poem being harsh, this would also support the suggested view.
A poem from The World’s Wife, which does not support the view that Duffy is entirely hostile towards men, is ‘Anne Hathaway’. In this poem, Duffy clearly puts across the love and affection men can give. The poem is based on William Shakespeare’s will, in which he leaves his wife, his second best bed. Throughout the poem, there is a constant affection being displayed between Shakespeare and his wife. ‘My lover’s words were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips.’
There is a romantic feel to these images being placed in the head of the reader, ‘forests, castles, torchlight, cliff tops, seas where he would dive for pearls.’ In my opinion, a woman who was being critical of men would not use such poetically romantic settings to describe what said man was doing. Another factor of Anne Hathaway that contradicts the view is the use of metaphors. ‘He would dive for pearls’, ‘My lover’s words were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses on these lips’, ‘my body now a softer rhyme to his, now echo’. These are all metaphors for some kind of sexual interaction; I think that Duffy has used these to compliment men.
They’re not bold statements that are rude, they are soft innocent phrases, and there is nothing unbelievably inappropriate in this poem. The general concept of this poem is relatively positive about men. Shakespeare has left his wife, their ‘second best bed’, the bed they slept in together most nights and did all these romantic things in. Clearly, Duffy is not being hostile towards men in this particular poem.
Duffy’s ‘Mrs Sisyphus’ is another poem that can be relatable to this view of Duffy’s attitude towards men in the collection. The poem consists of a wife complaining, continuously about her husband working too much. Instantly, in the first line she begins insulting him, while he is working, ‘That’s him pushing the stone up the hill, the jerk.’ She is clearly aggravated by his excessive working as by the end of the first stanza she has become violent, ‘I could do something vicious to him with a dirk.’ The language in Mrs Sisyphus is very powerful and aggressive; the poem could easily be interpreted as the wife ranting profusely.
Duffy uses a strong rhyming pattern, which creates almost an angry beat in the poem. ‘Jerk’, ‘Kirk’, ‘Irk’, ‘Berk, ect. This could be displaying criticism towards men and their possible obsession with work and other things. Personally, I think that Mrs Sisyphus is far more critical of the wife than the husband. Duffy states, ‘Think of the perks, he says. What use are the perks, I shriek.’ He is making it clear that he is working so she can enjoy life more fully.
She isn’t supportive when it comes to his work, as a partner should be, loving and such. ‘Folk flock from miles around just to gawk. They think it’s a quirk, what a lark’ In my opinion, she’s the one being criticised here, giving no support to her husband who is providing for her and belittling what he is doing.
In conclusion, I do not agree fully with the view that Carol Ann Duffy is completely hostile towards men in the World’s Wife. I believe that in some of her poems such as Thetis, which can be interpreted as domestic violence in a relationship she has been hostile towards men, but that is totally acceptable. The other poems I have discussed; Anne Hathaway and Mrs Sisyphus both do not appear to give any indication that Carol Ann Duffy is hostile towards men, in this collection.