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Gender Roles in Little Red Cap by Carol Ann Duffy

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Gender Roles in Little Red Cap by Carol Ann Duffy Essay

The poem “Little Red Cap” by Carol Ann Duffy is a twist of the original story “Little Red Riding Hood”. Carol Ann Duffy takes a stand where at the end of the poem the wolf does not eat the girl like in the original story but instead outsmarts the wolf and kills it instead. The author switches the story around and changes the stereotypical roles of the man and woman and shows a sexual upbringing throughout that empowers the girl over the wolf. She provokes these thoughts through the use of masculine terms in the use of a feminine role to show this everlasting change between the role of an average male and female role.

The main idea that is seen in the poem is how the author switches the roles of the original story of the traditional “Little Red Riding Hood” and changes the roles of the two main characters in her spin-off of the story. In doing so she changes the average role of these two characters and the oppressor in the original story becomes the oppress in her spin-off. You can see the switch from this in “I took an axe to the wolf, as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw. The glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones” you can clearly see the different roles being changed but this change shows how Carol Ann Duffy is empowering a woman in this poem and breaking that average male and girl relationship by doing this with giving the role of the predominantly male wolf who kills everyone and outsmarts everyone to the girl instead. The role change shows how little red riding hood is the dumb little redhead people know her as but instead a more malicious and smart girl that becomes enlightened within her and outsmarts the wolf and kills him instead.

One thing that Carol Ann Duffy uses to divide and change the stereotypical roles of a guy and girl by giving a sexual upbringing of the girl. This can be seen in the poem when Duffy says “I crawled in his wake. My stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer. Snagged on twig and branch, murder clues.” The uses of the onomatopoeic description of the “thrashing fur” finds a way to show the violent impressions of the wolf. Though despite the set overtones, it shows how thi is more a consensual experience and the speaker is not being raped in a way. We know this because the speaker denies any such way that rape was going on, this is seen in “for/What little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?”. Duffy is able to manipulate the traditional perception of the character of Little Red Riding Hood by using the speaker to actively pursue the wolf. This, in a sense, rejects the traditional type of roles of prey and predator in the fairy tale. The speaker is shown to be the aggressor in this relationship with her control of everything. The line “It was there I first clapped eyes on the wolf” is a very important line that informs you as reader that she saw the wolf before wolf saw her but still chose to be seen instead of run away, she makes herself seen on purpose. Yet Duffy deliberately makes it where see says she wanted to be “seen” and to show off her innocence to in turn manipulate the wolf. We can assume that Duffy empowers her through the manipulation and her realizing her true self to allow her to become enriched and become more of a man than the wolf itself is.

The last overlying thing that Duffy does in the poem is throughout she gives masculines qualities and ideas to her and takes away those qualities in the wolf. You can see evidence of this in this “The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods. Away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place”. You see Duffy instead of going for the normal damsel in distress tone of what the story went by but instead shows a sense of assertion and direction. This is more a stereotype of a man that chooses what and where to go. Though that’s not what’s happening in this case though because she is instead manipulating the wolf to do what she wants him to do. She is taking these qualities of a man and turning her role into a more masculine role than what is known for a woman. Duffy splits the divide even more between the average roles by doing this because she takes away the wolfs masculinity when she starts taking the roles of a masculine being away from him such as manipulation, control, and leadership.

From these techniques and ideas that Duffy uses in her poem “Little Red Cap” it creates this overlapping gap and switch of the two stereotypical roles of a man and a woman. She provokes this by taking away the masculinity of one and the stereotypes of and giving it to the other. This in a sense makes the wolf powerless and has no control and like, in the end, dies with no way of stopping it. This makes one question if the wolf even was a man at all when he lacked all characteristics of a man or if this is how a man holds up when the stereotypical woman is not the stereotypical woman everyone thought she was. 

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Gender Roles In Little Red Cap By Carol Ann Duffy. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
“Gender Roles In Little Red Cap By Carol Ann Duffy.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Gender Roles In Little Red Cap By Carol Ann Duffy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Jan. 2023].
Gender Roles In Little Red Cap By Carol Ann Duffy [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2023 Jan 28]. Available from:
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