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Critical Analysis of "Before You Were Mine" by Carol Ann Duffy.

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Introduction

Critical Analysis of "Before You Were Mine" by Carol Ann Duffy This poem is a series of reflections by a child on what her mother was like before she was born. The poet is writing to her mother, maybe possibly having seen a photo of her as a teenager. The voice is the first person; "I" and "You" tell us this, and also the poem is written to sound as if the person being addressed is the child's mother. Another thing to note is that the poet wants to state that she's present, even before she was present, "I'm ten years away" and "I knew you would dance like that" tells us exactly this. The poet describes the photo of her mother standing up laughing with two of her friends. She knows that the thought of having a child when young 'doesn't occur' to her mother, when she was wrapped up in a world of dances and teenage dreams. Now remembering her own childhood, the poet thinks of how she used to play with her mother's red shoes and imagines when her mother might have worn them to meet a boyfriend in 'George Square', "I remember my hands in those high-heeled red shoes, relics, and now your ghost clatters toward me over George Square". ...read more.

Middle

Enjambment is heavily used throughout the poem, so that the reader reads the poem quickly, and gets the main points clear. Line 25 contains the single word "mine", and this word reminds us of the possessiveness of the speaker. One of the most interesting lines in the poem, I personally think, is "stamping stars from the wrong pavement". Literally, the sentence is describing the shoes the child and her mother were wearing, which had metal tips, and the stamping the pavement produced small sparks. "the wrong pavement" may be conveyed as a reference to the Hollywood film stars' names which are embedded on pavement. The language contributes a tremendous amount to the mood of the poem. There are many references to the child's mother as being happy and bright, "you laugh" and "the bold girl winking in Portobello", as well as "you sparkle and waltz and laugh" show this. Life back then is seen as glamorous. The mother is linked to Marilyn and goes to a dance where a glitter ball hangs, "the thousand eyes". The mother dreams of "fizzy, movie tommorows", and the child imagines his/her mother meeting a boyfriend, "under the tree, with its lights". The poem is written in the present tense, as if the events are happening now. ...read more.

Conclusion

The main ideas and attitudes the poet is trying to show are that the poet romanticizes her mother and the glamorous life she used to lead. She longs to see her mother as she once was, before she was tied down with motherhood. The poet recognizes that all mothers have mothers - her mothers mother used to 'stand at the close with a hiding for the late one," perhaps because the poet's mother now watches out for her. The poet is re-examining her own feelings as a daughter. In conclusion, the poem deals with two sets of memories. The first set belongs to the child; memories of her mother's dancing shoes and of being taught to dance by her mother. The second set belongs to the child's mother. The mother must have talked to her child about her youth, and so therefore the child has built up a picture of its excitement and glamour. The daughter is discontented because she was not actually present during these events, but she imagines them vividly and, of course, owes her existence to the fact that her mother met her father. Finally, the underlying theme is a sort of jealousy as indicated by the title, "Before You Were Mine". The past histories of the people we love are often fascinating and the 'possessive' child in this poem wants to be able to enter into his/her mother's past. ...read more.

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