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Review of Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem, Valentine

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Review of Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem, Valentine essay
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A poem which deals with the subject of love through strong human emotion is ‘Valentine’ written by Carol-Ann Duffy. The poets attitude to love is unusual as she provides a different perspective on how we can look at it by describing the unconventional and pessimstic side of life. The indepth metaphorical techniques. use of imagery, structure, word choice and how Duffy treats love.

Immediately the reader think the poem is about conventional and original love by the heading “Valentine” as it has connotations of flowers, choclates and love. It refers to the conventional notions of love and traditionnal love. But… the poem starts off with a negative, direct statement which immediately sets the tone and reveals the fact that this is no stereotypical valentines poem, “Not a red rose or satin heart”. The poet is adamant in telling the reader what the poem is not about, and this leaves the reader curious about what the poet thinks love is as Duffy clearly doesn’t think that conventional gifts, such as roses or hearts, signify love between two people in any significant way. And to further her point of stong emotion, Duffy gives this sentence a stanza of its own to thoroughly emphasise her point.

In contrast, Duffy starts the next stanze informing the reader of the actual gift – an onion -. “I give you an onion”, this metaphor shows their relationship and description of love. It also suggests that you peel away an onion getting deeper into it as you do in a relationship, peeling away the layers, getting deeper into your partner. Duffy then goes onto how the onion is a symbol of love, she says, “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper” this use of imagery is effective as it can be used in different contexts. She could be implying that the onion indicates love in the way that tge exterior is irrelevent, it is only the inside that counts and has any worth, and the idea of the onion being “wrapped” could imply protection and security, or perhaps there is something hidden inside like a gift. Also the reader giving the present may think it doesn’t need elaborate packaging, the gift of love is enough and highlights the theme, truth and honesty.

In the previous stanza, the attitude was informative and light. But in tghe beginning of the next stanza, Duffy becomes more direct and gradually more forceful as she offers the gift and says “Here”. This gives the impression that her emotions are becoming unstable in the way that she used an imperative, when offering a gift should be a graceful process. I do not find this method very convincing though. The gift should not be forced upon her lover, but it shows how passionate she is about the gift. It could also suggest a reluctance by her lover to take the onion, as he is forcing him to take it. Duffy then goes on to talk about how the onion willl affect her lover “It will blind you with tears, like a lover “, the onion is like a lover because it makes one cry. The verb “blind” may also suggest the traditional idea of love’s (or Cupid’s) being blind. She then says, “It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief”. The onion reflects a distorted image of anyone who looks at it, as if this reflection were a “wobbling photo” – an image which won’t keep still, as the onion takes time to settle on a surface.

In the last stanza the poet starts it off by describing the quality points of the onion, she says, “Lethal”, this has connotations of poison , pain and suffering and this suggests how love is, tainted and dangerous. It could also imply that the love will last till your death because it clings to you. It scemy marks the lover this shows that the onion is possesive and won’t leave.

In conclusion, i believe Duffy has successfully used the onion as an appropriate materialistic sybol of love in the uses of metaphor to link them together. The immediate elimination of cliched gifts proves her discontent towards them as gifts of love

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Review of Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem, Valentine. (2019, February 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
“Review of Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem, Valentine.” GradesFixer, 12 Feb. 2019,
Review of Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem, Valentine. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
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