Interpretation of the poem - Sample Essay
In another interpretation of the poem, it could be said that the main concern of the poem is not the politics of sex, but it is actually about Delilah fulfilling Samson’s request of making him ‘gentle’. In an interview in 2005 with Barry Wood, Duffy talks about the poem and says ‘In this poem I have her do it (cut his hair) so that instead of becoming powerless he becomes gentle’. Duffy keeps up a series of rhymes and half-rhymes on the word ‘ hair’ through the poem such as ‘care’, ‘roar’, ‘bear’, ‘scar’ to keep the reader on the theme of Delilah cutting Samson’s hair in order to make him less powerful and thus gentle.
Alternatively, rather than wanting to dominate Samson, it could be that Delilah cuts Samson’s hair with ‘passionate hands’ because she passionately wants to fulfil his desire to become gentle. She addresses him as ‘my warrior’ in the fourth stanza showing that she had appreciation of his strength, however ‘(she) was sure that he wanted to change’.This may have been a selfless act of love rather than a selfish act of betrayal. Duffy says whilst improving Samson as a human being, cutting his hair destroys him as a warrior. This shows a completely different side to the poem which has no relevance to sexual politics at all.
In fact, it is a possibility that whilst being a love poem, Duffy is exploring gender roles through this relationship in the poem. It is interesting to note that Samson demonstrates the ‘macho-man’ qualities that are typically desired in a mythical, biblical or fairytale hero yet he still wishes to possess female characteristics such as being ‘tender’. Whilst in slumber Samson becomes ‘soft’ – this is interesting to note because when a person is asleep their conscious mind is switched off and their subconscious takes it place. This could be a suggestion that perhaps social constraints have made Samson want to maintain his ‘macho-ness’, however inside he does not want to conform to this socially constructed role and this comes out when he is asleep. Ultimately, when Samson is asking Delilah to make him gentle, he is asking her to make him more feminine and by taking away his strength, Delilah is indeed fulfilling his request of making him gentle.
On the other hand, Duffy may have intended the poem to carry a double-meaning. As a feminist writer much of her work in ‘The World’s Wife’ is focused on sex and relationships therefore it could be speculated as to whether ‘Delilah’ can have as simple a meaning as suggested above. Also, as the insight Duffy has given in her interview does not match the biblical story, there is a possibility of a double-meaning. This possibility is brought out by the lack of emotive diction in the poem particularly from Delilah’s behalf. She only describes him as ‘handsome and huge’ when he is asleep i.e. vulnerable to becoming overpowered which could mean that he only appeals to her when he is weak and she is able to take advantage of this. Other than the above example, the speaker does not use emotive language to describe Samson which suggests a lack of emotion or love towards Samson. This heightens the idea of a double-meaning in the poem which carries a concern with the politics of sex.
Upon reading the poem for the first time, ‘Delilah’ comes across as a poem highly focused on sex and power as demonstrated by the suggestive language used throughout. However, by reading the interview with Barry Woods, we can see that sexual politics is not the entire focus of the poem and much of the poem is actually concerned with love and gender. In fact, it can even be argued that the poem has no concern with the politics of sex and is in actual fact a love poem as Duffy herself states in her 2005 interview. To conclude, ‘Delilah’ is a poem open to several different interpretation – it can be seen as a directly sexual poem or more deeply a love poem.