The World's Wife. Carol Ann Duffy

1721 Words Mar 11th, 2011 7 Pages
Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common. (Dorothy Parker)

Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife (1999) takes a very common relationship – that of man and wife – and presents a collection of poetic monologues from the perspective of the wife. Written on the pretext, ‘If his wife could speak, what would she say’, Duffy’s monologues gives a voice to women who are usually defined by their men. Thus we hear from the wives of famous, and infamous, men such as Mrs Darwin, Pilate’s wife, Mrs Aesop, Queen Herod and Frau Freud. Many of the poems in this collection offer an insight into heterosexual relationships often exposing the abusiveness (‘Mrs Quasimodo’), emotional aridity (‘Delilah’), cruelty (‘Mrs Pilate’), sexual immaturity
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Maybe Duffy is hinting that in order for a female to find true happiness she must remove the realms that bind her? If so, what does that say about this heterosexual relationship?

A more significant into this heterosexual relationship is the revelation that the best part of her husband’s soporific state was that there was not demand for sex. This is her delight. He sleeps and she no longer has to put up with physical side of their relationship.

“But what was best,
What hands-down beat the rest,
Was saying a non-too food farewell to sex.” (ll13 -15)

Duffy’s representation of sex figures as an oppressive terror rather than an erotic release. We, the reader, feel her excitement and happiness but the dream comes to a pitiful end upon the eventual awakening of her husband. Thus a state of pathos is created and one can only find pity in the situation:

“I came home with a pastel of Niagra and he was sitting up in bed rattling Viagra.” (ll16-18)

Duffy conveys the position of Mrs Van Winkle in the relationship as nothing more than an object for sex and pleasure for her husband, bound by the conventional view that women are nothing more than the property of men. Furthermore, Duffy seems to be saying that while Viagra may be a blessing to many middle aged men, it may not be to many middle aged women who have retired from sexual activity. This notion is supported in an article from an 1988 edition of The Times newspaper

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