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To what extent do you agree that in her poetry Duffy explores 'a sense of alienation and a turning away from the past'? You should base your answer on a close examination of three or more appropriate poems of your choice.

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Introduction

To what extent do you agree that in her poetry Duffy explores 'a sense of alienation and a turning away from the past'? You should base your answer on a close examination of three or more appropriate poems of your choice. 'The Virgin Punishing the Infant' portrays the extent of corruption in society, and a vindictive nature so strong that it does not falter, even with regards to Jesus Christ. This poem contains various biblical references and the use of key figures in Christianity. The voice of this poem is a townsperson, overlooking the infancy of Jesus Christ, whose alienation is displayed immediately, with reference to his superiority- 'he spoke early. Not the goo goo goo of infancy, but I Am God'. Joseph, in recognition of his unfortunate position in the situation isolates himself, 'carving himself a silent Pinocchio'. Duffy is portraying Joseph as an insignificant character, alienated through his being devoid of a profound connection to Jesus Christ. The alienation brought about through the presence of Jesus Christ involves all in his direct contact- 'the village gossiped in the sun'. ...read more.

Middle

Through the use of examples where prayer is used in Duffy's poem, it is apparent that Duffy recognises that we live in a capitalist society where we only apply ourselves to a task for personal benefit. Yet Duffy does not condemn this characteristic of the modern day world, which conflicts with the religious views that prayer should be regular and constant regardless of circumstance. Duffy characterises prayer as unique to the individual and a universal experience. Duffy dwells on the idea of prayer as a personal consolation rather than simply a process. Although Duffy shares with religion the view that prayer may be salvation, overall, Duffy alienates the religious definition of prayer through her altered approach. 'In Mrs Tilscher's Class' deals with the themes of growth and change, as brought about through the journey of its characters from childhood into adolescence. The poem is voiced through a pupil of Mrs Tilscher's class. We come to identify this voice as representative of the class. Warmth is detected early on in the poem with regards to the classroom. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Untidy, hot, fractious under the heavy sexy sky'- The children are shown to be developing an understanding of new concepts. The scope of their feelings is no longer childish. The children are portrayed as overwhelmed emotionally, which leads to the thunderstorm finale. The thunderstorm may be symbolic of the children's betrayal of their classroom, or simply an example of how life will follow with the loss of their shelter. When the children are 'impatient to be grown' they have ultimately disclaimed their shelter and are therefore exposed to the harsh adult world in all vulnerability. The fact that the children 'ran through the gates' with no evidence of looking back acts as final confirmation of their turning away from the past. A sense of alienation may also be detected in 'Mrs Tilscher's Class' through the children's isolation in their experience of transition into adolescence. Emotionally they are alone in their journey into adulthood, and physically, they feel a want to alienate themselves from the world that they already know. Through examination of Duffy's poetry therefore, it is apparent that although she does explore both 'a sense of alienation and a turning away from the past', but the theme of alienation is more principally a focus. ...read more.

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