Grey threads and brown - Sample Essay
Duffy uses imagery to give meaning to the female voice; colours show how Penelope felt during times of her life, Penelope recalls her childhood ‘at first I sewed a girl under a single star – cross stitch, silver silk’ the assonance used here illustrates the innocence and beauty of a young Penelope.
While waiting for her husband’s return she tries to capture its unfulfilled quality through the image of ‘running after childhood’s bouncing ball’ here she uses bright colours such as pinks and greens to show the hopefulness of youth, however she also depicts a disappointing image by adding ‘Grey threads and brown’, the change from ‘silver’ to ‘grey’ emphasizes Penelope’s disappointment, she is disappointed because she realizes she will be forever chasing a loving relationship with her husband like she was chasing the ball.
Duffy ends the poem again by using colours to convey meaning. The ‘scarlet thread’ symbolizes blood; it is Penelope’s warning to Odysseus. With her new found creative power she warns that her needle is a weapon, when her husband arrives Penelope merely gets on with her life, she is no longer concerned, unlike Mrs Midas who ends her poem longing for her husband’s ‘touch’ Penelope aims ‘surely at the needle’s eye once more’. This creates a violent image, Duffy is able to give the needle the power of a sword through Penelope’s accuracy with it.
In ‘Salome’ Duffy also uses dark humour to show the female disregard to man; ‘ain’t life a bitch’ however while Salome is always able to have a relationship with a man, Penelope can’t, she shows her awareness of this by embroidering a river that will ‘never reach the sea’ this symbolizes he realisation that she will never reach a loving relationship with Odysseus, Duffy also shows this in the repetitive nature of Penelope’s twenty years away from her husband, ‘did my work by day and at night unpicked it’ her life restarts every day, she never gets to see if she will ever fulfil a loving relationship with Odysseus.
Duffy shrewdly uses alliteration to depict Penelope’s progression as a woman, she imitates the motion of the needle through the ‘Love’ and ‘lust’ of youth to ‘loss and ‘lessons learnt’. The effect of this is to illustrate to the reader how Penelope’s life has changed so seamlessly through her time embroidering Her ‘love’ has become ‘lessons learnt’ this relates to her growing awareness, she realizes that her time wishing for ‘love’ was a ‘loss’ of time and she now has ‘learnt’ her lesson.
The metaphor of the moon shows that Penelope’s new found wisdom has allowed her to know ‘which hour the moon would start to fray’ the female voice has become while not cynical, all knowing about love, something she realizes she will never have. While the poem does not contain a specific rhyming scheme, Duffy does use rhyming and half rhyming strewn throughout the poem, the effect of this is to again help show the seamless change of events in Penelope’s life, this said, when Penelope’s voice is at its strongest towards the last two stanzas Duffy removes any rhymes.
Here the feminist in Duffy could be demonstrating that like Penelope does not need her husband, she herself does not need to fall back on the male invented technique of a rhyme to make her poem a success. Overall, Duffy creates the female voice in Penelope by allowing it to grow in strength and independence through satirizing the stereotype of embroidery being associated with the weakness of women and instead making it symbolize strength and independence.
As a result the female voice can be heard aloud throughout the poem. Through techniques that mirror this, Duffy successfully gives the women in the original tales the power to be heard, this is what I believe it the quintessential idea behind ‘The World’s Wife’, giving the women in literature an output to voice their opinions. Ameer Patel, Ms Dinsa English poetry application. 1000 words; excluding quotes, title, name of poems and collection.