The poem The Dolphins by Carol Ann Duffy is a monologue written from the perspective of a dolphin

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The Dolphins analysis:

The poem ‘The Dolphins’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a monologue written from the perspective of a dolphin. This unique perception allows for the exploration of the themes such as entrapment, abuse of wildlife, and the enmity between man and nature. Duffy’s use of literary devices and language contribute to the development of the main ideas of the poem.

The poem begins with the line ‘the world is what you swim in, or dance, it is simple’. The use of the 2nd person voice helps to establish a closeness between the reader and the persona. This statement has the purpose of indicating that the speaker is a dolphin who lives its life in water and hence, swims. It also, however, implies the distinction between ‘swim’ and ‘dance’. The word ‘swim’ could mean just staying afloat- bare survival. Whereas the word dance has connotations of joy and pleasure. The phrase ‘we are not free’ shows that the dolphins are trapped and are swimming, not dancing. The phrase ‘we are in our element but we are not free’ creates a paradox between being in one’s ‘element’, which is usually considered a place where one is comfortable but also implies the physical element of water, and yet being constrained. The poet uses the phrase ‘cannot breathe for long’ to give a sense of panic and captivity. Duffy develops the idea of the dolphins’ lack of liberty by repeating certain words and phrases like ‘same space’ and ‘pool’. This emphasis the dolphin’s limited perception of the world.

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The abuse of wildlife is hinted at throughout the poem. The line ‘there is a constant flowing guilt’ refers to man’s guilt for trapping the dolphins in a false environment with ‘flowing’ water to emulate the ocean. At the end of the poem, the phrase ‘until the whistle blows’ literally means until the dolphins are finished with their session with the man but it could also imply until the animal cruelty is called out and the animals are returned to their habitat.

The enmity between man and dolphins is clear from the personification of people as an anonymous ...

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