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Medusa ~ Carol Ann Duffy
Transcript of Medusa ~ Carol Ann Duffy
Language // Imagery
Duffy uses different types of stone for each living thing that Medusa kills, "dull grey pebble" for the bee, a "housebrick" for the ginger cat etc. (the sizes of the stones increase through the poem - the importance of the living thing also increases bee to dragon). The metaphor of "bullet tears" is paradoxical (self-contradictory), because tears are usually seen as a sign of weakness/fragility, whereas bullets are seen as violent and dangerous. The entire poem is an extended metaphor for a jealous woman who turns against the man she loves because of her over-powering feelings of doubt, betrayal and bitterness. Throughout the poem Medusa is presented as a dangerous woman, but she also loses a lot as she becomes the metaphorical monster which was being described e.g. her hair turns to "filthy snakes" and her breath "soured, stank". Medusa can see these changes in herself and doesn't like the person she has become, but anger and bitterness overcomes her and leaves her as a shell of the woman she once was. At the end of the poem Duffy uses a rhetorical questions "Wasn't I beautiful?/Wasn't I fragrant and young?", this is to show the character's her bitterness betraal and sadness at this negative change in her. The man she once loved is described as having a metaphorical "shield" for a heart, this could imply that he was unable to open up and love her properly or that he never intended to love her and was just using her for his own selfishness.
Language // Sound
The poem uses a lot of alliteration and rhyme, this helps to link up the lines and create a sense of rhythm even in the form of free verse. In the third stanza, there are two lines that contain two sets of internal rhyme "but I know you'll go, betray me, stray/from home" (know/go and betray/stray). End rhymes are also used in the third to sixth stanzas, they always include the final line of the verse, this in turn creates a sense of totality which can be linked with the death/murder of her victims. Sibilance is another language technique used, at the end of the first stanza it is used to suggest the hissing of snakes: "hissed and spat on my scalp", it makes the reader feel like the character is close to them, hissing at them. Duffy also uses groups of threes as a way to build up rhythm, starting from the first line "a suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy".
Form & Structure
Medusa is written in free verse, as the poem progresses her list victims becomes far more extreme, going from a bee to a dragon and then to her husband (the man who broke her heart). The poem is divided into stanzas of, in most cases, equal length, apart from the final line ‘Look at me now’. This leaves the poem with a dramatic finish, the reader is left unsure whether to feel threatened/terrified by the monster she has become or feel sorry for the lonely woman who's betrayal left her empty.
This poem also makes us feel sympathy for the character because she is clearly distressed and suffering throughout, ‘but I know you’ll go, betray me, stray from home’ just shows us how lost she really is. The character talks about the time when she was young and beautiful, this just shows us her complete lack of self- confidence. Medusa is still presented as a frightening character who threatens the reader (‘Be terrified’), this leaves the reader with conflicting emotions when it comes to the character.
Who is Medusa?
Medusa is one of the Gorgons' three sisters from Greek mythology. Medusa is known for having snakes for hair and a gaze which turned those who looked at her to stone. Medusa was killed by the hero Perseus who cut off her head. Medusa is mostly seen as a villain, but in this poem Duffy creates sympathy for the character through her choice of language.
This Poem is told in the First Person and is presented as a dramatic monologue. Medusa follows the transformation of a woman's feelings of jealousy and insecurity over her husband infidelity. The poem begins with ‘A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy’, this tells us that these feelings have developed or time and are now making her question who the man she loves really is. This betrayal turns her into the monster that is mentioned throughout the poem.
Themes & Ideas
Medusa is presented as a terrifying and frightening monster who, because of her betrayal, hurts the things around her. The character even tells us that we should be terrified of her, but there is also a feeling of sadness and loss throughout the poem. Medusa has resorted to these actions because of mistreatment by a man, 'suspicion' and 'jealousy' have been her biggest motivators. These ever present themes have made this a tragic poem, a once 'beautiful' woman became ugly because of the unfortunate and sad events which occurred in her life.