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The Growing Up of Little Red Riding Hood in a Poem by Carol Ann Duffy

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At the beginning of Duffy’s collection of poems Little Red cap depicts the state of adolescence and the rites of passage that lead to adulthood, containing autobiographical narratives Of Duffy’s own life. ‘Little Red Cap’ is based around a young girl end of innocence as she goes through sexual awakening which can be interpreted as a feminist recreation of the original classic, little red riding hood. Duffy examines the restraints put upon women by men specifically vulnerable and curious young women who are easily persuaded. Duffy seems to base many of her poems on female empowerment in which her ideal is to influence the reader to adjust their mindset on the topic of feminism. Female liberation is the main theme all through the poem as the young women has a reassertion of womanliness as she takes to lead of her action without the leadership of a man. On the other at the tender age of sixteen the situation could be seen to violate her innocence as it reinforces authority over her by the male gender and the patriarchal society.

The start of the poem signifies the narrators exit of her childhood, “at childhood’s end” which is a play on words that make it clear how literally the narrator walks out of her childhood; as streets and districts are commonly named ‘End’ in England similarly to ‘wood end’ etc. As her childhood draws to a close, the structure of her life is also lost as “houses petered out” signifies the loss of security that a house represents. ‘Playing fields’ is an aspect associated with childhood that the narrator is moving away from, it also is similar to the original metaphor ‘level playing field’ which advocates that life is equal for all, but in reality, in adult society is dominated by men. However, at the end of the first stanza Little Red Cap is the instigator of this journey and the word ‘clapping’ introduces slight control, which is a subverting the roles of the stereotypical women in the twentieth century. In the second stanza, the narrator identifies ‘the wolf…red wine staining his bearded jaw’. The use of the phrase red wine may suggest sexual maturity, passion and seduction; it also represents the aspect of alcohol in adulthood. The word stain also implies spoiling something perfect and innocent which links to the childlike innocence as she explores her sexuality during a repressive society for women. This portrays Little Red Cap as naïve through her willingness to explore her sexuality. Little Red Cap goes on to say ‘I made sure he spotted me’ which inverts the gender roles as the girl is in the position of power in contrast to the fairy tale as Little Red Cap proceeds to make advances and strives to be noticed. Similarly, in Duffy’s poem ‘Queen Herod’ as the gender roles are inverted in the biblical story of the three magi into ‘three queens’ and liberates women through displaying women as cunning and deceptive as they hold a secret agenda against men. The three queens give Queen Herod’s daughter qualities instead of material gifts “Grace…Strength…Happiness.” which suggests that while men only desire limited material gifts and are acquisitive, women long for useful, perennial qualities. This is evident through the use of capitalized abstract nouns which are juxtaposed with the seemingly useless and disregarded material (“Silver and gold, the loose change”) given to Jesus, alluding to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh gifted in the Bible story.

In the third stanza in ‘Little Red Cap’ Duffy uses a hypophora ‘you may ask why. Here’s why’ which emphasises that she is already confident and is certain that she can answer her own question. Although, the enjambment used downplays Little Red Caps Self-assuredness. It is apparent that although the narrator desires to detach herself from the limitations and subjugations over women, there are elements of danger. This is noticeable when the adjective used to describe the setting reflect adulthood being dangerous and complex grounds for a young girl: “dark tangled thorny place”. This contrasts Little Red Riding hood where there was the security of her grandmother house.

In from Mrs Tiresias as a woman, Tiresias can only access power vicariously and so he is shown ‘entering glitzy restaurants/on the arms of powerful men’. Also, as he is in the body of a woman, he may be marginalised, however his male persona is still present as he maintains the right to tell women that he knows how they feel. Correspondingly in Little Red Cap the disparity between the two colours ‘red’ and ‘white dove’ symbolising danger and purity show the coming of age as her childhood is abruptly ended by the male figure. In conjunction with this, From Mrs Tiresias demonstrates that even though men face the same difficulties and trials women face and they cannot compare with the struggle’s women undergo within the society dominated by men. On the other hand, Little red cap also demonstrates that she is liberated in the last stanza as she responds to authority by killing the wolf ‘I took an axe to the wolf as he slept.’ The harsh death of the wolf shows Little Red Caps reclamation of power. In addition, the sonnet Anne (based around love traditionally from a male point of view but is inverted to a women’s point of view shows liberation from submissiveness) Hathaway empowers women through giving her a voice when previously she was a woman who had been unheard.

To conclude, ‘Little Red Cap’ as the introductory poem, materialised female liberation through the journey of a young vulnerable girls’ rite of passage into adulthood through exploring her sexuality and breaking the constraints of a patriarchal society. The moral of the poem as the central theme to most of the poems in Duffy’s collection is presented clearly to be female liberation because this poem is a recreation of the original fairy-tale, the reader can identify the switch in character and maturation. As Little Red Cap ultimately freely fulfils her sexual desires which denies patriarchy and allow her to explore her feelings; provides the first sense of approbation of female independence and empowerment in Duffy’s collection.  

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The Growing Up of Little Red Riding Hood in a Poem by Carol Ann Duffy. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-growing-up-of-little-red-riding-hood-in-a-poem-by-carol-ann-duffy/
“The Growing Up of Little Red Riding Hood in a Poem by Carol Ann Duffy.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-growing-up-of-little-red-riding-hood-in-a-poem-by-carol-ann-duffy/
The Growing Up of Little Red Riding Hood in a Poem by Carol Ann Duffy. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-growing-up-of-little-red-riding-hood-in-a-poem-by-carol-ann-duffy/> [Accessed 27 Jun. 2022].
The Growing Up of Little Red Riding Hood in a Poem by Carol Ann Duffy [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Jun 27]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-growing-up-of-little-red-riding-hood-in-a-poem-by-carol-ann-duffy/
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