Compare and contrast '1953' by Lochhead and 'Litany' by Duffy

Authors Avatar by jlogan616c2kninet (student)

Duffy and Lochhead both write about the theme of periods of history/ the past. Compare and contrast two poems dealing with these themes.

Duffy’s ‘Litany’ and Lochhead’s ‘1953’ are both set in the 1950s therefore both deal with this period in history. ‘Litany’ is spoken from the perspective of a young girl who sits with her mother and her superficial ‘friends’ as they subtly attempt to outdo one another and uphold artificially perfect lifestyles. The child attempts to make their meetings more interesting by using explicit language and has to wash her mouth out with soup as punishment. ‘1953’ is a dramatic monologue, also told from the perspective of a young child who is admiring her parents as they work hard to create a perfect living space for her family.

A litany is a religious prayer which is recited routinely. The title of Duffy’s poem therefore has religious connotations attached which are ironic. The poem is structured into four quatrain stanzas which accurately reflect the controlled, strict nature of a litany. Enjambment is employed allowing the final sentence from the second stanza to be carried on in the first line of the third. This is to symbolise the meaning contained in these lines, ‘an embarrassing word, broken/ to bits’; the sentence is broken as are the words. ‘1953’ is formed from three stanzas of unequal length which reflects the free verse style of the poem and its ode-like nature.

Join now!

In ‘1953’, the child speaker admires her parents; ‘you… put the effort in… You set paths straight/ with slabs it took to men to lift.’ She speaks of her parents’ deeds in terms of nature, her father made, ‘gardens [happen]/ where earth had been one raw wound’ and her mother, ‘ran rivers of curtain material through the eye of a needle’; this suggests that she sees her parents as being stronger and more powerful than nature itself. Her parents’ hard work to create a new life is due to the period is history when this poem is set; after the ...

This is a preview of the whole essay