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A Close Critical Commentary on Thetis by Carol Ann Duffy

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Introduction

A Close Commentary on Thetis By Carol Ann Duffy Thetis is a poem written by the British poet Carol Ann Duffy in her collection The World's Wife. Unlike most of the other poems in this collection, Duffy has not titled the poem as "Mrs..." (such as Mrs Lazarus and Mrs Tiresias) but as just "Thetis". This may be making the point that in this case, it is Thetis herself who was famous, not her lover, and this shows female independence. The poem shows the transformations of Thetis, a Greek goddess and sea nymph, as she attempts to escape her mortal lover, with whom she is destined to have a child. Duffy uses the poem to celebrate the adaptation and flexibility of women, just as she does with Mrs Lazarus- who moves on after her husband dies- and Mrs Midas, who moves her husband out and remodels her life without him. The poem is written in free verse, which helps keep the pace of the poem fast, and reminds us of the freeness of Thetis' form. ...read more.

Middle

By using religious metaphors such as "shouldered the cross" and "[carried the cross] up the hill" she brings in the idea of Christian suffering, and ties it to the suffering of Thetis. Similarly, the albatross and the "squint of a crossbow's eye" are also images of suffering- that of the mariner in 'The Rhyme Of An Ancient Mariner'- and could also signify the suffering felt by her suitor as he tries to capture her, only to be cursed by her hatred. The suitor is described in varying ways throughout the poem. He goes from being a "charmer" (the snake charmer image gives us the idea that she is under his power) to a "strangler" (a powerful image) in stanza three, and this shows his two personalities- the powerful man and the lover. The sudden change in description also gives the premonition of a sudden change in her feelings. In stanza four he is coldly described as "the guy"- an impersonal reference. This lets the reader see the development and progression of her feelings for him. ...read more.

Conclusion

They allow Thetis to seem bored of running from her suitor, as they are over-used phrases, and they are used in a satirical manner, which also shows humour. Similarly "Stuff that" is a chatty, every-day phrase, and Duffy also uses it humorously as a pun, referring to the art of taxidermy. Interestingly, the lines "I shopped for a suitable shape./ Size 8. Snake./ Big Mistake" suggest a criticism of today's society, where size 8 is a perfect size to be. Duffy is criticising men for forcing women to be slim, and women for giving in to them, and this fits well with Duffy's theme of being forced to change. The "Big Mistake" line shows Duffy's contempt for the conformers. The internal rhyme speeds up the pace, and this fast pace mirrors the speedy lifestyle of women today, especially their high street shopping, which is frantic but ultimately meaningless, just like Thetis's changes. Duffy is making a joke of the 'ultimate' shape and appearance so valuable to women in today's society. The last verse of the poem is different to the others. Thetis is no longer running from her suitor but embracing him. ...read more.

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