‘The Public and The Private’: An Analysis

After looking at ‘The Public and The Private’, a short essay by Marian Cox and Robert Swan on Carol Ann Duffy’s works, I’ve noted that in our later in-class readings and analyses on ‘The World’s Wife’, we should focus more on the theme of maturity (the “journey from childhood to adulthood”), choice of persona, as well as the subversion of gender stereotypes.

One of the first things that the essay mentions is theme of maturity across Duffy’s overall works. In the case of ‘The World’s Wife”, this is expressed through the personas of each poem, with the first poem beginning in young adulthood and last ending in motherhood. This is significant towards our reading as it allows for us, as readers, to view the poems as a whole, which together tell an overall story about the role of a woman and the potentials they have in modern society. If we weren’t able to consider this, the overall message of the ‘The World’s Wife’ collection would then be lost.

The second, being the choice of persona, is important in the sense that we are able to understand Duffy’s intent on writing this collection of poems. In ‘The World’s Wife’, the voices of 30 women, either the female counterpart, wife, or gender-swap discuss modern-day issues of the female identity through the context of the persona’s historical relevance. For one, this is quite interesting as this carries on the first point mentioned by the essay: the role of women is constantly changing, very much like the role of a woman as she progresses through each stage of life.

Going through the later sections of the essay, it was quite difficult choosing another interesting point that allowed, but I then learned that a ‘recurring feature’ of subversion of gender stereotypes is another element that should be focused more on. Similar to the previously mentioned roles of womanhood, Duffy is utlising these poems to challenge the viewpoint of roles of woman in modern-day society. This is quite interesting as these two points seem to contradict each other: Duffy wants us to recognise the roles that women have in society, but at the same time to realise that they are not constrained to the day-to-day house labours. Perhaps this isn’t a contraction, but rather a suggestion that women have all the opportunities available to them just like all men do, signaling true equality in terms of genders and their expectations.

2 thoughts on “‘The Public and The Private’: An Analysis

  1. So do you think that the collection is as relevant today as it was when it was written twenty years ago? Have the roles of women changed? Is the world a different enough place for this collection to have lost relevance? How do you, as a young man, view your place in this collection? Do you feel wronged by Duffy? Or do you feel there is much for you to learn from what she has to say? Where are you in this collection?

    • I believe that with the advancements in societal roles in the past decade, and even in the past 4 years, it should be mentioned that some of the comments made in Duffy’s poems about the hardships of women are more extreme than today. That being said, I am not disregarding all of the misfortunes that are placed upon women. It is true that women today still face the same inequality of rights and harassment from males today, but those issues are being addressed today in movements such as #metoo or #whyistayed. Still though, this poem collection stays relevant to the timely issue of the inequality of societal roles and rights of women.

      As a young man, I should say that although I recognize the fact that this poem collection is meant to discuss the hardships of women and celebrate their accomplishments, I do believe that there is often another side of the story, the male perspective. There are still issues from the past about masculinity or “being a man” that are still not addressed today, leading towards societal pressure on the roles that a man has to play. And if there was some form of expression placed up on these issues, I believe that fair equality would arise from this. As for Duffy, there is nothing wrong with sharing the pain and suffering that women had to endure at the hands of both men and society.

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