Two Poems by Carol Ann Duffy: Exploring Time and Love Essay

In ‘Mean Time’ by Carol Ann Duffy an important idea is time having power over love we do not have the power to change or go back in time therefore we have to value both the good and bad times. Carol Ann Duffy shows this through the narrative perspective of first person allowing readers to sympathize and connect with the narrator and help understand the situation. Another poem by Carol Ann Duffy is ‘Valentine’ an important idea is love by portraying a more truthful and down to earth view of love. Duffy shows us how it is important by the use of extended metaphor throughout the poem by comparing the onion to love.

Both these poems share a common idea of exploring love in different ways and showing that love may not always be happy and that it also brings sadness because love is not eternal. In the poem Mean Time the main idea is about the power time has over people, no one can control time therefore you have to learn to appreciate all the time you have, so there are no regrets in the future. This poem talks about the end of a relationship as it is symbolized by the season autumn, this is when the clocks are turned back an hour.

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Autumn has the connotation of loss, coldness and everything coming to an end which leads to feeling the loss of love, home, and belonging. This links to the title ‘Mean Time’ which suggests time being cruel by stealing away her time because of her lack of control of time and lack of care for the relationship making the break up seem unexpected, this resulted to regret and guilt as the narrator wishes she could turn back time however there is no way to go back in time once again showing her inability against time because of the impossibility for time to rewind.

The title can also mean the pain the narrator is going through is only ‘in the mean time’ however she does not see this. She realizes that her mistakes are unmendable and beyond her control but does not see that the unmendable rain will eventually stop. The narrator is caught in the unwillingness to accept the fact that she is no longer in a relationship this is shown by her repetition of ‘our’.

At the end of the last stanza Duffy concludes by stating the fact that time is inescapable and that love and life simply will die that is the nature of things. I think this is the most important idea that that the author is trying to convey that since we cannot avoid or stop time, then we should cherish both the good and bad times because people only have one chance to live. This idea was portrayed through the use of the narrative point of view which was first person, this helped the readers to connect and understand the narrator’s direct thoughts. As I walked through the wrong part of town” In this poem the narrator is very devastated by the ending of a relationship that everything seems to be full of darkness as time stole away her light which symbolizes her happiness she also feels lost and nothing seems right as she walked through the wrong part of town because nothing seems to be right and she loses her sense of direction in life.

The use of first person allows readers to put themselves in the narrator’s place “where I felt my heart gnaw” this provides a very strong response from the readers as they can feel the pain the narrator is going through as her mistakes are gradually eating away her heart. Another poem by Carol Ann Duffy is Valentine, this poem’s main idea is exploring the more truthful view of love and showing that love is not always forever and perfect and it may be hurtful and difficult at times however.

Her poem is very misleading as most would expect a romantic valentine poem, however Duffy avoids the stereotypical views of valentines and compares love to an onion and uses harsh words like lethal and grief. This would lead readers to believe that she has been hurt in previous relationships. The poem starts off with ‘not a red rose, or a satin heart’ by this she is stating that she will not give her lover a cliche valentine present but instead she will give an onion. This is trying to suggest that people nowadays are being commercially influenced by the media and surrounding which loses the original purpose of valentines.

Duffy brings back a more down to earth and practical view of love which is very important because it allows the reader to understand what love really is and not just the commercial and fairy tale like love that are shown in the media so it will not mislead young people who are inexperienced in love and relationships. Carol Ann Duffy used an extended metaphor to portray the idea of love by comparing it to an onion. Duffy’s use of metaphor creates a different approach to love which is not romantic or traditional but realistic and honest.

She shows that something invaluable and normal may also mean something of huge value. “I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. ” In her first stanza she paints a soft image of love comparing onions with the moon wrapped in normal brown paper which is the skin of the onion and acts like a brown bag concealing the present rather than using fancy wrapping paper to disguise the object. As you peel off each layer of the onion skin what lies underneath is true love which is the light symbolizing happiness. It will blind you with tears like a lover” This projects the fact that your lover may make you cry like an onion when you cut it, it may also show that love has the ability to blind the lover from reality and lead them into a false sense of fantasy love raising high expectations from their relationship and they may be disappointed after they really experience love. The second stanza is juxtaposed with the first stanza as Duffy uses strong words like knife, lethal and fierce to show the power of love and the dangers of it, which can cause you pain, and grief.

In conclusion the idea of time having power over people in ‘Mean Time’ is an important idea because it allows the readers to see the importance of appreciating the time you have and not waste it, this was shown by the use of first person narration which enables the reader to experience the narrator’s feelings which helps them understand the narrator’s personal thoughts and ideas. In ‘Valentine’ the idea of real love was conveyed through the use of an extended metaphor comparing love to an onion which was unexpected and seemed humorous however it is a rather serious and truthful analysis of love.


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