The World’s Wife – Three Poems, One Message

“Thetis”, “Ms. Faust”, “Mrs. Rip Van Winkle”. In Carol Ann Duffy’s “The World’s Wife” poem collection, these 3 poems share a similar theme: while women seek to educate themselves, men tend to engage in destructive–and sometimes lustful–activities. The question here then lies: why are such men in positions of power or influence?

Looking at the first poem “Thetis,” the destructive nature of the male sex is lain in the open. At its core, “Thetis” details of a girl expressing herself both creatively and emotionally, but being stopped short each time by a man’s violent act. We know that the male gender is responsible for such actions, seeing as the text references “his fist” (6), “his strangler’s clasp” (17), and “the guy in the grass” (24). Each quote describes a different male figure in her different stages of life, as symbolised by the new animal form that she takes. From here, the poem thus emphasises the point that no matter where women go or what they do, men will inevitably disrupt it in their violent nature.

“Ms. Faust” elaborates on this point further, showing how women are able to bide their time and expressing themselves through emotionally-beneficial activities, whereas men perpetually create larger and greater problems not only for themselves, but for humanity as a whole. For example, as Ms. Faust engages in meditation or world exploration, Faust, in the poem, goes on to lust upon women, engage in politics, warfare, and cheating nature (by cloning a sheep). These actions are all similar in a sense where men lose their morality and humanity; Faust is representative of men throughout history, raping, killing, pillaging ever since the beginning. They never stopped. Despite all this, Duffy adds a powerful message at the end: much like the legend itself, when the deal Faust–symbolising men–made runs short, he must eventually must pay the price. When this happens, everything he created passes upon Ms. Faust, now single, separate from men (emphasis on the “Ms”). Duffy does this to show how times are changing, and the positions of power are changing from men to women, something that her role as Poet Laureate has already experienced.

Lastly, “Mrs. Rip Van Winkle” focuses less on the destructive nature of men (as the other two have), but rather more on the lustful, more foolish aspect of men. Like the other poems, the female counterpart is more interested in self-discovery, indulging in activities that made her happy as a person. Through this, Duffy states that no matter the situation, women have always been able to persevere. On the other hand, men, when faced with old age and the depletion of sex, are only able to focus on satisfying their lustful urges. Again, there is nothing beneficial, only a lewd self-indulgence.

Again, Duffy brings up the question, “if men are so incompetent, then why are they the ones in control?”. “Ms. Faust” perfectly summarises the predicament of what’s to come. The message is clear: women are taking position besides, if not above, men in society.

“Calm Before the Storm” (Journey’s End Act 2 Scene 2) – A Reflection

Going through the interpretation process was both exciting and frustrating in terms of execution–at least that’s what I thought. After some discussion, we picked the section we did due to the interesting dialogue between Stanhope and both the Sergeant-Major and the Colonel. Then, as we practised those couple times, we realised that the script is hard to execute in terms pacing and emotion (as mentioned by Petra and May’s comments). Having said that, we did the best that we could. Surely though, our interpretation upon the text lacks in detail that the “naturalistic” play does. Being the residents of Shunyi, the life experience that we have lessens that emotional punch that residents of 1920s Britain felt at the time. In 1926, Britain had crawled out of the First World War with just over 900,000 fatalities, a horrific loss for both the government and its people. Thus, the interpretation within the 1926 play holds more true to the horrific content that soldiers faced, as well as impacting its audience more seriously and effectively. Still, however, one message remains clear for both audiences in 1926 and today: we should cherish and praise the heroic soldiers rather than their heroic actions, as war is horrific and conflict should never be celebrated.

The above message relates to the global issue of politics, but I believe that another main issue is present within the play: power. I mentioned this in a comment on DX, but I said that Sherriff depicts an issue of how power often falls upon those who are unable to aid those they are responsible for. Tying this in with the other statement about politics, the public shouldn’t celebrate the army and its military generals and whatnot, but rather look at the soldiers and how they’re just regular people making sacrifices. These people are what won the war; they were brave and fought on despite the circumstances.

Overall, this experience with interpreting the play through execution really did let me reflect on how Sherriff wanted the play to be shown. Unlike reading the text, I felt like I really was experiencing (to an extent) what Sherriff had undergone and felt during his time during war: the hesitance, the respect, the fear. I had to express these emotions through facial features, actions, and through my words, something that requires reflection. And through that, I’m able to understand Sherriff’s message and appreciate the sacrifices that the soldiers had made, and fight for a future that doesn’t repeat itself.

‘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.

“The Nest” Global Issue Analysis

Poem Title: The Nest

Global Issue Focus: Children provide joy towards a community by giving them the purpose of parenthood

In the poem The Nest from the Green Rice poem collection, Lam Thi My Da utilises structure and symbolism to emphasise the global issue of how children provide joy towards a community by giving them the purpose of parenthood. The first piece of evidence that can be taken from the text is through the structure itself: a sonnet. Sonnet forms–multiple quatrains + rhyming couplet– are generally used to convey a form of love or appreciation for its topic. In the case of Shakespearean sonnets, they were utilised to discuss his warping love. But for The Nest, the sonnet form highlights the appreciation of the effect that children have on the community.

Having said that, the effects of the children are elaborated within the poem by the symbolism of eggs and dry straw. In lines 13-14, it is described that the “Strands of straw and grass” (13) are “Woven without soul” (14). Once the context of community is valued, it can be interpreted that although the community–made up of individuals of straw and grass–may be exist, there is no real purpose or culture. Later on in the poem, when the egg is introduced to the nest made up of straw and grass, the strands “Become musical strings//When they touch the egg” (15-16). In other words, if the egg were to represent the children and the youth of society, the community only becomes lively once they are introduced to the egg. Musical strings have purpose, that being bringing music and sound into the world, which contrasts greatly against the previous line that stated that such individuals are “woven together without soul”.

This idea of ‘sound versus silence’ is not only shown in the previous example, but also through the description of the egg: “A single ivory egg//Like life’s chanting voice” (5-6). The chanting voice of the egg gives connotations of a lively, invigorating crowd, which overpowers the “Mysterious silence” (1) that mentioned in line 1. The silence references the muteness, possibly referring the concept that although society may be made up of the collection of individuals, there is no culture that brings joy or purpose. However, the egg, being the youth that it is, gives the gift and job of parenthood to the community, allowing such individuals to pour their soul into such development. From there, the community is able to build their identity around, which is referenced in lines 17-18: “Then the egg seems//To give the nest a heart”. It’s through the “heart” that the egg(the youth) pumps both life and soul through the community.

RC Sherriff: Thoughts and Analysis

Article Link:

This article details about the difficulties that RC Sherriff had encountered, not only in his WWI years, but during the production process of Journey’s End. At the time of its conception, the entertainment climate was mostly bright, energetic, and optimistic. Journey’s End contrasted this with its grim, realistic portrayal of war. This article does mention however that the play was received with warm regards in the naturalistic acting aspect. The main argument here is that most critic reviews miss the big picture that Sherriff is trying to display; instead of calling for a pacifist society, Sherriff is highlighting both the heroism of soldiers as well as the harsh environment that no human being should experience, further pushing the idea of heroism.

I would have to agree with both the columnist and Sherriff on this one, as the play itself holds non-exaggerated, realistic character archetypes. Despite their understandable fear and anxiety, the soldiers within Journey’s End are able to enter the battlefield again and again, knowing that their lives would eventually be taken in the battlefield. These are portrayal of acts of heroism, rather than the lives of heroes. I find this to be especially important as in reality, everybody has their own flaws. Alcoholism, cowardice, all these things are a part of some of us, but that does not take away from the certain moments that define our greatest moments.

As I re-read and analyse the play after this article about RC Sherriff, I’m sure to focus emotional flaws that create the realistic portrayals of the characters. From Stanhope’s alcoholism, to the naivety of Raleigh, I’m sure that Sherriff twists such characters in a way that their sacrifices are great regardless. Just as the article details, “war is loathsome and yet it leads to perhaps the most inspiring feats of heroism”.

Realism and Naturalism within Journey’s End

Before I discuss how realism and naturalism is utilized within the play Journey’s End, I need to define what both terms mean. Realism, in terms of art and drama at least, is the attempt of the creator to adhere towards the accuracy of actual real-life within their own representation. In art, this could be tied towards the art style of photo-realism, or even just the attempts at drawing still-life. On the other hand, naturalism (in the case of drama) is–as defined by the dictionary–a style and theory of representation based on the accurate depiction of detail. Therefore, a set designer for a play would be attempting to replicate the entirety of the setting down towards the prop models, background, clothing, etc. Because of this, these two concepts are fairly similar, allowing for some to use them interchangeably within performing arts.

Sheriff, being an actual captain within World War One, underwent the trauma and horrors of war itself. This experience lends itself within the play as the actions portrayed by the characters echo very human emotions. By human, I refer towards the less romanticized aspects such as cowardice, as shown by Hibbert as he attempts to leave the battlezone. In addition towards this, the idea of “normalcy”, or rather the characters acting as if nothing wrong were going on, is often alluded to within the opening scenes of the play. For the audience this may clash against their perception of steel-hard soldiers valiantly fighting against the enemy, but for actual soldiers such as Sheriff himself, this references towards an actual feeling that soldiers had as they patiently waited for their final battle to begin. The characterizations of such characters add an actual human element, further pushing the element of realism within Journey’s End. This is unlike other portrayals of war, where heroism is glorified and the protagonists win the conflict in the end. As for naturalism, the stage description within the transcript describes the setting and how the characters interact. Sheriff’s own experience within trench dugouts and tunnels are highlighted by the dreary living conditions that the play portrays. With the wire netting, bare furniture, and wood framing, Sheriff by no means is romanticizing the concept of war, further pushing realism concept that war is unforgiving and harsh towards the young soldiers who fight within it.

Green Rice: Introductory Thoughts

Looking at the introductory text towards the Green Rice poem collection, I can clearly see that these poems are not just a reflection of the poet Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ’s history, but also commentary on the limited social standing that women have within society. Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ also mentions specifically the “traditionally Confucian culture”(xiii) as to blame for this gender imbalance of right; however, having said that it seems that she doesn’t question the validity of such beliefs. Instead, she establishes that women can be more capable than given credit for, all thanks towards their “cultural base” (xiii). I find this particularly interesting as this distances her from other feminist poets, but this could all stem from her specific upbringing as a young Vietnamese girl growing up in the Vietnam war.

The introduction also specifically mentions the motif of passing time, which most certainly is prevalent–especially after reading through the poem collection myself. Taking into consideration of the examples given in the introduction and the poems themselves, Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ flitters through different perspectives of women, being both young and old at certain times. I like to think that Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ does this to represent not only women of her age and stature, but also the young girls and old women that also contributed towards the war. In class, we also read certain articles on the different roles that Vietnamese women had during the Vietnam War, and I noticed that across different historical recounts, the role that Vietnamese women had are unfortunately underrated. To me, it seems very likely that Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ is not only writing these poems to reflect upon her life, but also the thousands of women during the Vietnam War.

Regarding form, this introduction also talks about how the English translation was adapted from the original collection of poems written in Vietnamese. I’m surprised that the translator had such in-depth conversations with Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ, meaning that the English version wasn’t just a simple literal translation. Instead, different literary devices such as the poems’ flow, were “translated” as well through the lack of punctuation in separate lines. I think that although the emotional connection of the Vietnamese language is clearly disregarded in the English translation, the emotional weight of such translations allow Martha Collin’s version of Green Rice to be just as valuable as an insight into the perspective of Vietnamese women in the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

Underlying Theme within Grendel Debate Notes

(Image below) These notes were from the debate about whether or not life was meaningless, everything had no purpose, and the general existential nihilism present within the novel Grendel. This was the first debate that I participated within the class, but also the debate that I was not supposed to be a part of/prepared for. Thus, my situation put me into the position of Speaker #3, which provided rebuttals to the opposing counterpoint and and conclusions. Our team was opposing the idea that life had no meaning/purpose. My specific notes can be seen in the teal-blue colour below:

(Image below) The group discussion/debate that I planned to participate in focused on the idea that heroism the ideal characterization that people should strive for if they wanted to “succeed in life”. After group discussion, our group came together to form our main points (as shown in the lighter blue). During the actual debate itself, I again took notes about their claims and counterclaims to build future arguments in the later debates for my peers.

IB English Lit HL Paper 1 Practice Reflection

Looking back on my paper, I can clearly see the different aspects that I can work upon. One of the most important aspects is analyzing the paper as a whole. What I mean by this is to relate certain portions of the texts with previous bits more often. Although I do do this within my paper, it seems that I may have missed some important connections between the beginning of the passage with the ending lines. Additionally, my literal analysis of the text still needs to be further elaborated upon, as my recap of the story consists of the passage introduction. If I were to include details about the setting or the conflict of the passage rather than the situation, that would provide further background detail for my analysis. Lastly, my analysis should be improved in terms of word choice and “professionality”. I did misuse a literary terms, and I did also add a biased description within my conclusion, which hurts my paper’s credibility.

Grendel Chapter 3: A Global Analysis

In John Gardner’s novel Grendel, Gardner provides critique and commentary on many contemporary issues through not only the complex characterization of Grendel, but also the actions of characters within the ever-changing environment. In Chapter 3 specifically, Gardner focuses on the global issues of Culture and Power by utilizing Grendel, an outsider of society, to criticize the modern culture of idolization and how power is more often than not just an empty, meaningless title.

Evidence of this can be found in page 52, where the Shaper is described to have been “thinking up formulas for what to say next”. Here, Gardner is suggesting the fact that the tales of the heroes are merely manufactured for a certain purpose; in this case, to entertain and inspire other warriors/heroes. However, because these tales are fictional, the validity of said heroes’ actions are put into question. Therefore, if all the stories of heroes are all fables, what *really* constitutes a hero in Grendel’s world? It is later on in page 54, where Grendel comes to the realization that not only are humans lying to themselves about their own heroic deeds, but are actually indeed just as monstrous as he is. All this time Grendel had been looking for a connection to human characteristics, but all he found was that the humans were not the perfect image he sought to become. Instead, they were violent, erratic, and absolutely wasteful.

Taking Grendel’s critique on the falsehood of heroism, we can apply this towards the modern day issue of idolization in modern media and society. It seems that with the rise of modern technology and social media, even the most remote and extreme individuals are able to garner a platform to support their views. It was commonplace and still is that “social idols” often obtain their celebrity and idol status rather infamously, and still despite that, thousands–if not millions–still perceive them as a role model. As Gardner puts it within his novel, the question that is directly quite pointedly to our culture is that “if these are the types of people that our society values, how does that reflect the core principles of our community?”