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The title of the poem Valentine written by Carol Ann Duffy is very misleading. One would expect to read romantic love, instead she writes about cynical love. She has obviously been hurt in previous relationships. The poem starts off with a positive statement-Not a red rose, or a satin heart. She states that she will not give her lover a conventional valentine present. The harsh consonants give a feeling of harshness. The poet has chosen to give her lover an onion. She uses the onion to symbolize love. Like a person we never really know what a person is really intending. She uses a metaphor to convey this idea. I give you an onion, it is moon wrapped in brown paper,-With this creates an air of mystery is created. It promises light, like the careful undressing of love.- A feeling of sensuality is created with the use of the repetition of the sound. The use of the word Here makes the reader feel that the poet is in control. She continues with the extended metaphor it will blind you with tears Not only will the onion make your eyes water, the pain caused by a loved one has the same effect.
The use of a simile contributes to this viewpoint like a lover, love distorts ones vision. It will mislead the reader into believing something that isnt true. The pain can make one feel bitter and disillusioned. The white space gives time for the reader to reflect upon the section of the poem that they have just read. She explains that she does not wish to be unkind. She is being realistic. Im trying to be truthful.- alliteration, the repetition of the sound gives it the feeling of sincerity. Not a cute card or a kiss-o-gram- she does not approve of commercial tokens of love. I give you an onion- She uses a metaphor. Its fierce kiss will stay on you lip the bitter taste on an onion remains on a persons lips. The memory of a kiss can stay with one forever. Possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are She suggests that love affairs only last for the time that two people are interested in each other. She insists that he accepts her gift Take it. She denigrates marriage. She compares the loops of an onion to a wedding ring and implies that marriage can deaden love and passion.
Marriage is lethal in her opinion. In the extended metaphor she expresses her sentiments, sometimes people never recover from a broken romance. They will continue to experience heartache, pain, bitterness. Its scent will cling to your fingertips, cling to your knife. The repetition of the word cling is effective. The word knife conveys the image of a wound. The poet has obviously been hurt in previous relationships. On the contrast, another poem, Before you were mine, also written by Carol Ann Duffy is about mutual love between mother and daughter. There are several different romances in this poem. The poet considers her mother at three different times. In the first stanza she imagines her mother as a teenager, ten years before I was born. Im 10 years away from the corner that you laugh on with your pals. She imagines her mothers life, she is young, carefree and without responsibility. She enjoys the company of her friends, they shriek with laughter. The three of you bend waist hold each other on you knees and shriek at the pavement She imagines her mother in a polka-dot dress of the time. In her mind an image appears of the late sex-goddess Marilyn Munroe in a scene from the film Some like it hot. A polka-dot dress blows round your legs, Marilyn Once again Carol Ann Duffy uses enjambment to give an empress ion she is trying to recreate the past in her imagination. Caesura is used to introduce the girls names. The names Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff suggest they are ordinary working-class, fun loving girls. The poet continues to think about her mothers carefree days. Im not here yet Her mother is unaware of the future that lies ahead. The thought of you does not occur. The mother enjoys herself at dances in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy movie tomorrows. She still has dreams and hopes for the future, she dreams of the glamour seen on the big screen. Caesura is used to show her thought process. At dances they hoped that they might meet their future partner. I knew you would dance like that She looks back at the days when her mum was free and uninhibited. She admires her mother. She then introduces the title of the poem Before you were mine. The reader is then able to sense a strong bond between mother and child.
The possessive pronoun Mine enforces the idea of a close mother-daughter relationship. She can imagine her mother waiting to reprehend her for being late. Knowing her mother has spirit she will think that the punishment was nothing compared to the fun she had just had. You reckon its worth it. Carol Ann Duffy realizes that her birth changed her mothers life dramatically; she had to be responsible and look after a child. In the third stanza that the ten years before she was born were probably the best years of her mothers life. The decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one, eh? She uses a rhetorical question. She does not really want her mother to confirm that statement. In her imagination she sees her mother clattering in high heeled shoes I remember my hand in those high heeled red shoes relics and now your ghost clatters towards me over George Square- the image is vivid she uses an effective metaphor to show this as/like a scent. She indicates once more that her mother was a free spirit and those small bites on your neck, sweet heart?- Another rhetorical question. She remembers as a child dancing to the cha cha cha on the way home from mass- She wanted to express her self. Her mother has not realized her full potential; she married young and has the responsibility of motherhood. The poet yearns to be the young girl from the past even then Portobello the glam image will never fade. She uses alliteration to show that her mothers qualities are time less. The glamorous You were mine. The two poems are very different to each other. As I mentioned before, Before you were mine was based on a mutual relationship between mother and child whilst Valentine Is about a love relationship that has gone horribly wrong and has left one of the lovers stranded in an emotional state which can not be resolved. She will always have that close bond with her mother. What ever happens they will always be there for each other. However when you are dating other people you never know what their true intentions are. You can never spend enough time with some one to get to know their true personality that they are holding back. She idolizes and adores her mother, she looks up to her and has done ever since she was a child, this is why she love her. On the contrary she loves her lover because she wants to get to know that person. She finds them interesting and different.
In “Before you were mine” there are several references to time and it is one of the main topics. She refers to the past and compares it to what it is like in the present. This suggests that the bond with her mother will be there for eternity. Whereas in “Valentine” time isn’t such a big issue and is barely touched upon throughout the poem. It is all written in present. She doesnt think about past relationships. This may suggest that she has been in only one relationship with a man and will not go back to him or another man. The levels of time is “Before you were mine” can be puzzling Unlike “Valentine”, “Before you were mine” explains how much the poet idolises and adores her mother. Both poems focus on the subject of love although in “Before you were mine” this is the love between a mother and daughter and is a lot more obvious than in “Valentine” which is about the love in a relationship between two lovers comparing love to an onion. “Valentine” is very cynical and “Before you were mine” is caring, and through this poem she expresses her love for her mother.
Both poems are full of imagery giving the reader visions of how it may have been like. As she reminisces in before you were mine she thinks of her mother dancing her way home from church cha cha cha. This is a happy picture of a young woman embracing life. How ever in valentine Carol Ann Duffy uses imagery for pictures of suffering and pain caused by heartbreak. The poet uses effective ways and different techniques to portray her ideas and entertain in both poems such as similes, “like a lover”, used in “Valentine. The repeated sound sounds almost as if the poet was teasing us, as if she know the relationship will not work out. How ever “clear as scent”, as used in “Before you were mine”, gives the feeling of sincerity. She also uses interesting metaphors, “Like a moon wrapped in brown paper” this creates an air mystery around the subject. and alliteration, “trying to be truthful” the repetition of the sound gives a feeling of sincerity and honesty. Enjambment and caesura are used in “”Before you were mine” as well as rhetorical questions, creating interest, “the decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one eh?” I enjoyed studying both Valentine and Before you were mine. But I preferred Valentine. It interests me how Carol Ann Duffy conceived the idea of comparing love to a onion. I would like to ask her what inspired her in writing this poem, as it is unusual and clever. There is a lot of truth in this poem but it is represented in a very different way to what the reader would of expected from its name.
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