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Consider The Role And Treatment Of Love In Carol Ann Duffy’S Valentine.

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Consider the treatment of love in Carol Ann Duffy’s �Valentine’.

Carol Ann Duffy’s �Valentine’ ultimately depicts a highly cynical attitude towards love and conventional gestures of affection. The poem uses traditional images of valentine as a starting point, before showing how an onion is much more true to the nature of love. An extended metaphor of the onion is then used to depict Duffy’s underlying implication that love can be destructive on many different levels.

One of the main ways in which Duffy conveys this message is through structural devices. The structural progression of the poem is very ordered and logical; firstly defying traditional images of love, and then developing the stanzas by offering statements to justify this contemptuous attitude. The basic structure of the poem however, is based on the actual presentation of the gift, written in personal first person. Firstly a description of the gift is given, “I give you an onion,” followed by the offering itself, “Here,” then the moment of the gift being exchanged, “Take it.” These succinct sentences or words provide a structured foundation on which the poem is based, accentuating the importance of the onion itself as a gift. Also, the enjambament in the lines to follow also adds to the effect of the onion being unwrapped; the overflow of words from one line to another reflects the way in which an onions layers overlap and are peeled continuously.

Furthermore, the poem is written in a normal meter, with no regular rhyme scheme or stanzas. This gives the poem a naturalistic quality, much like a lover’s speech naturally addressed to the other lover. This lack of rhyme also reflects the unpredictable, irregular nature of love, which is reinforced by the statement “I am trying to be truthful.” This line also acts as a Duffy’s self-justification; is it a convincing, simple and personal interlude between her elaborate use of metaphors and imagery in depicting her message. This reveals that throughout the poem, Duffy’s argument is partly based on her impulsive, honest thoughts regarding love; she writes with an often transparent stream of consciousness.

Much like these structural devices, Duffy’s use of language is also integral to the overall effect of the poem. Essentially, Duffy’s lexical choice is colloquial and accessible, reflecting how universal the central theme of love is. This is highlighted by the unspecific use of �You’ and �I’ in the poem; Duffy is clearly acknowledging the pervasive nature of love. However, despite the language itself being comparatively simple, the way in which it is used often has a contrary affect. This helps to reveal Duffy’s underlying message that despite being seemingly innocent or pleasant, things are often internally or deeply complex. This device can be especially seen in the title �Valentine.’ This word connotes love, and publicised affection and joy, therefore it is expected that the poem will proceed to meet the expectations provided by the title. However, the title proves misleading as the poem advances to become a cynical account about the title itself and everything it connotes. Progressing from the title �Valentine,’ the poems focus quickly turns to and revolves around an onion. There is a radical disparity between this object and the title of the poem, as love is not characteristically associated with love. However, the poem develops to show the appropriateness to the comparison of love to an onion.

These comparisons are in the form of striking images; often depicting the literal qualities of the onion as well the metaphorical qualities of love as an onion. In the first stanza, the onion is described as “a moon wrapped in brown paper./It promises light” This depicts a visual image of the onion, with darker outer layers with a light core. Here we see a stark contrast of the visual sight of an onion to the sensual, romantic image of a moon. The reference to the promise of light refers to both the literal brightness of the centre of the onion and the metaphorical understanding of love or being enlightened. The way in which the onion is described to give light is a clear, visual depiction of how love can be compared to an onion, much like the onion and love alike are said to “blind you with tears.” The use of the verb “blind” connotes traditional ideas of love (or that of Cupid) being blind. It can therefore be seen that romanticised images of love using eloquent imagery and metaphors are used to depict how love is exactly the opposite; harsh and blinding.

Furthermore, Duffy also uses personification of the onion in order to accentuate its overwhelming power; much like love itself. The line “Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips/possessive and faithful” depicts literally the strong taste of the onion, as well as exposing how difficult love is to forget or obliterate its effects. Here the pungency of taste is being compared to the sheer intensity of love; another point where the comparison of love to an onion is being made explicit. In addition to this personification, other literary techniques are used in order



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