The poem Valentine is written by Carol Ann Duffy. Throughout the Poem she shows the positive and negative sides about love by comparing love to an onion. She does this by using different techniques such as language features such as metaphors, simlies, Imagery and word structure. All these techniques make it interesting because she uses an onion as a girft to represent love and relationships.
In the begining of the poem Duffy starts off with a negative in opening line. “Not a red rose or a satin heart’. She tries to tell her Valentine to not expect anything romantic. This is telling the reader that it is not somthing sweet, romantic or taditional gift but something unique and original. Then in the following lines she sets out why and onion is a good gift. Duffy then uses a metaphor “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love’. The ‘brown paper’ is the outside of the onion that hides the white vegetable inside. This brown skin is the wrapping paper of the gift, the onion.
Duffy compares her gift, the onion, to the moon being wrapped in brown paper. This picture of the moon represents the whole onion, just afger it has been peeled. The words “it promises light’ give a positive conntation meaning the moons ‘light’ represents love like a new start and begining of a relationship. Moonlight often provides a romantic setting. The peeling of the onion is also like two people taking off each other clothes before they make love “like the careful undressing of love’.
THe different layers of the onion are like the layers of someones discovering the layers in a relationship. Therefore Duffy begins the poeam with a negative conatation and a positive connatation about the onion befoere giving it to her Valentine. In the second stanza of the second line a similie is used “It will blind you with tears like a lover’. To show that onions will make you cry and make you blind of the pain and that love can do the same thing to a person. This shows that she is giving her partner an onion because love can be beautiful but can also cause pain and upset.
She then relates it too “your reflection is a wobbing grief”. Duffy relates this quote to one quote from the other stanza before “undressing love’. Here a metaphor has been used. A ” wobbling photo of grief is compared to a mirror. “wobbling’ refers to photo which has become blurred from the tears created by the onion.When you look at a photo with tears it doesnt give a real image to that photo but a blurred or wobbling image. Also when you begin to “undress’ (discover) when you make love it can also cause you grief. This stanza shows that onions can make you cry and feel pain like love does and a good language feature has been use to help describe the aspects of the onion.
Duffy then laters combines these quotes and makes a last stanza that gives more negative connatations towards the end. Duffy demands that her lover takes her gift ” Take it’. She then talks about marriage ” Its platnium loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like” She suggests that the bright white layers of the onion are relationships and rings. Duffy imagines that the ring is made out of white valuable metal, platnium.
She tries to tell us that the smaller the rings get the more chance of marriage increases but however if somthings ” shrinks’ it becomes less valuable and more restrictive and perhaps somthing at the end of the relationship. Duffy thinks marriage is like a knife ” Its scent will cling to you fingers, cling to your knife.’ The word “knife’ links marriage to a wound, and that Duffy may have been hurt in previous relationships. This shows a negative view of love and that someone had a knife and may have ended the relationship.”
Cling’ has been repeated twice, Even if one brakes up with partner the scent or the thought will be clinged to your mind , like the smell of the onion on knife after its been washed. Therefore Duffy finishs the poeam with a negative connatation and tells us that onions do have simliarities as a ring or relationships. In conclusion Duffy shows her feelings about love in positive and negative connatations throughtout the poem by using different techinques to show how intresting this poem is when comparing love to an onion. And how the reader of this poem should understand why she thought an onion was a good choice as a gift by being original and unique.
Use this page to find resources for Carol Ann Duffy's poem 'Originally'. The BBC Bitesize section in National 5 is very useful.
Choose a poem which explores an important theme. Explain briefly what the theme is and go on to show how the poet helps the reader to appreciate the theme.
A poem which deals with an important theme is “Originally” by Carol Ann Duffy. In this poem Duffy explores the themes of growing up, loneliness and isolation and helps her readers to appreciate these themes through her use of mood, imagery and contrast.
Carol Ann Duffy effectively draws us straight into the theme of isolation through her choice of first person narrative for the poem. The first verse of the poem is her account as an adult of her family moving her and her brothers from Glasgow into a new community. The poem starts with: “We came from our own country.” The use of the word “we” makes it clear that she is sharing a personal experience and this has the immediate effect of drawing the reader in as if we are having a personal conversation with her. In effect Carol Ann Duffy’s poem is a dramatic monologue, a drama with one main character doing the speaking. This adds to the idea of isolation – there is only one character speaking to an audience of one reader.
At this stage in the poem the poet belongs to a small family group who can fit into a car described as: “a red room which fell through the fields.” This very small setting involving just enough people to fit into a car adds to the sense of isolation. While the poet seeks to create a happy mood at the start of the poem through her use of rhyme: “fell through the fields” and “the turn of the wheels” as well as reference to the “mother singing” all is not happy. The word choice of “fell” through the fields gives a sense of something unpleasant and uncontrollable happening. The brothers are “bawling Home, Home” and the poet describes herself as a silent isolated figure: “I stared at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.” The poet clearly sees herself as an isolated person in the car in need of comfort and expresses that need through comforting the toy.
At this stage of the poem the reader feels a lot of sympathy towards the poet – this is evoked through the image of the “blind toy.” The poet uses a number of techniques to show that this is a move that she did not want. There is the use of personification in describing the journey: “the miles rushed back to the city” which expresses her own desire to go back, and the clever use of a list which takes us back to the place she has just left: “the city, the street, the house, the vacant rooms where we didn’t live any more.” These techniques all effectively help the reader to appreciate the sense of loss and isolation the poet felt during the car journey.
In the second verse of the poem the poet helps us to see that this kind of isolation though unpleasant is a necessary part of the growing up experience – “Originally” is therefore a ‘rites of passage’ poem. This is expressed in the metaphor: “All childhood is an emigration.” This metaphor is extended in the next few lines when she contrasts slow ‘emigrations’ where you gradually realise that you are different and isolated from others in your new community: “leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue where no one you know stays.” The word choice of “no one you know” as well as the use of assonance in that phrase effectively draws attention to the poet’s sense of loneliness. The poet then considers “sudden” emigrations where you quickly realise that you are different: “Your accent wrong.”
Carol Ann Duffy uses a simile to explain her emotional reaction to this change: “My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth in my head.” This simile compares her parents’ anxiety to the unpleasant experience of having a loose tooth in your mouth. It effectively gives a picture of something which worries you, and which you keep on going back to, until in some way it is fixed. At this stage, when the poet is still looking back to the time when she is a child, the poet’s solution is to go back: “I want our own country, I said.” Here the metaphor of country is used not only to describe the place that she has left, but also the language. In her “new country” her accent is wrong and “big boys … (are) shouting words you don’t understand.” This effectively helps the reader to appreciate some of the root causes of isolation – change in place, change of accent and change of language.
In the third verse Carol Ann Duffy now gives her adult reflection on the whole experience. As an adult she realises that going back was no solution. Instead time itself, growing up, brings about natural changes: “But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change.” This is a contrast to the attitudes expressed earlier in the poem, when the poet rebelled against the change, felt frightened by change and wanted to go back to the familiar. This contrast is used to show that the poet has grown up and has adapted to her feelings of isolation.
She is not, however, completely comfortable with her change. She talks about her brothers becoming like the other boys in her neighbourhood and now only: “feel a skelf of shame.” The colloquial word “skelf” is an indication that she has taken on board the new language of her neighbourhood and the juxtaposed word “shame” shows that she is not entirely happy with it. She uses the simile: “I remember my tongue shedding its skin like a snake” to bring out the idea that this change of language is evil, it is like the snake in the Garden of Eden, an evil presence which spoiled her childhood’s “perfect world.” The simile also expresses how easily this change was made, and how like a snake shedding its skin how the old has to be let go of so that the new can grow.
Finally, at the end of the poem the poet has dealt with her sense of isolation by becoming like those around her: “my voice in the classroom sounding just like the rest.” She uses enjambement to show that this process has taken time:
“… Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place?”
and to make clear from these lines that she sees that coming out from isolation to acceptance in this community has been paid for through loss – the loss of her cultural identity and original accent. While this has been a price worth paying it still leaves her unsure and a little unhappy. This is brought out through the use of questions and her final conclusion in the poem including the word choice “hesitate”:
“Now, Where do you come from?
Strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.”
In conclusion, Carol Ann Duffy has successfully explored the theme of loneliness and isolation in her poem “Originally.” In particular I think that her choice of the dramatic monologue successfully brought out her loneliness in going through this experience and helped me to appreciate her treatment of the issue of being taken out of one community and being forced to adapt to another.