The theme of betrayal - Sample Essay
These two poems are written about very different subjects but they both explore the theme of betrayal. In the first poem ‘Havisham’, the poet Carol Anne Duffy uses Mrs. Havisham, a fictional character from the well know novel ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, as her extended metaphor for betrayal. In the second poem ‘Kid’ by Simon Armitage, the poet presents the theme of betrayal from a slightly different perspective using ‘Batman and Robin’ as his literary conceit. Both Havisham and Kid feature literary conceits through which the poets convey the characters thoughts to the reader.
In Havisham, Duffy uses her chosen metaphor as the title. This makes the theme of betrayal known to the reader from the very start of the poem. Duffy asexualises the main character in the title through the absence of the pronoun “Mrs”. This puts extra emphasis on Mrs. Havisham’s metaphoric significance. In kid, Armitage uses the extended metaphor (Batman and Robin) to sarcastically influence the speakers’ role reversal of his childhood relationship with his stepfather who left him and his mother, to be in a relationship with another woman.
Both poems use strong plosives in the opening line of the poem. Havisham starts off with the phrase “Beloved sweetheart bastard”. The repetition of the letter ‘b’ gives the poem an immediate aggressive tone and evokes anger. This phrase is also an oxymoron; the poet is expressing the characters unhealthy state of mind through the polarisation of feeling. This is a result of these two feeling, love and hate, are irreconcilable, and yet both experienced by the speaker to their extremes.
Simon Armitage in kid also employs plosives to emphasise the anger and violence expressed throughout the poem examples include, “Batman, big shot” and “punching the palm of your hand”. Therefore, both poems use plosives in order to gain the same effect, emphasis on aggression and anger. Clothing is another common device used by both poets to express the characters state of mind. In Havisham the speaker seems to use clothing to convey a deeper meaning to the reader. “Loves hate behind a white veil” This oxymoron presents two overwhelming contradictory emotion.
This shows that although the speaker is angry there is also a more sophisticated side to her. However in kid, the description of clothing is far less sophisticated; “now I’ve doffed that off-the-shoulder / Sherwood-forest-green and scarlet number for a pair of jeans and crew-neck jumper” . The speaker in kid evaluates his adulthood through his clothing, which shows that he does not operate well in society. The clothes that belong to childhood is the “Sherwood-forest-green and scarlet number” and the “pair of jeans and crew neck jumper” belong to adulthood.
The speaker shows immaturity by describing his adulthood in terms of external virtues. This would seem fairly mundane in contrast to Havisham, which refers to clothing as part of an intelligent literary device, which subsequently has an effect on the reader. Enjambment is used in both poems, with each poet using this technique to create different effects on the reader. In Havisham, Duffy uses enjambment to build up dramatic tension in the poem. The enjambment used in Havisham goes against normal structure in poetry; “who did this / to me?
”, the effect that is created by the thoughts of the speaker running over from one line to the other, emphasises the great anger felt by the speaker at this point. This use of enjambment is doubly useful, in this case as the overall effect of the enjambed lines is that the idea takes the form of a rant. Armitage creates a mood of aggression in Kid, partly caused by the structure of the poem. Kid is presented in four long periodic sentences with multiple sub-clauses, enjambed over nearly every line.
One of the many examples can be seen on line one over to line two were the speaker says “when you gave the order / to grow up”. The emjabments used in kid also add to the menacing tirade in the poem. In Havisham the structure of the poem resembles that of natural speech. This results in the poem being more naturalistic. At the end of the poem Duffy uses the breakdown in rhythm, “b-b-b-breaks” to emphasise the speaker’s emotions. By adding in this caesura Duffy shows the disintegration of language, which connotes the breakdown of mind and the unstable mental state of the speaker as a result of the betrayal.
Similarly in Kid, Simon Armitage also uses caesura’s to emphasise some key words and themes within the poem, “I’m taller, harder, stronger, older”. As well as adding greater emphasis to the words, the use of commas between each word breaks up the rhythm of the poem and similarly to Havisham makes the poem exceed the boundaries of normal poetry. This causes the poems to take on the form of a rant. Language devices are used in both poems to enhance the build up of tension. In Havisham, Duffy uses alliteration to build up tension and as stated above, show the unhealthy state of mind of the speaker.
The example of this is “b-b-b-breaks”, this shows the feelings of the speaker mounting up inside her, and she has difficulty getting them out. Her hesitancy in this case could also allude to the speaker’s shamefulness of herself and the state she is in. Duffy also uses sibilance to enhance this effect, “Spinster, I stink”, this also could allude to the same effect as previously in which the speaker is ashamed of herself. The term spinster refers to unmarried women of marriageable age, and unlike bachelor has negative connotations.
This use of sibilance crates a very real effect to the poem the reader can hear, see and smell Havisham in their mind. The assonance found in the second stanza, “cawing Nooooo at the wall”, implies that Havisham has been re-living in her mind the past events in her life, something that is often not psychologically healthy. The significant literal device found in Kid is the use of repetitive assonance which in this case is all the lines ending in ‘r’: “order… wander… yonder… rather… corner… ”.
These assonances conjures up an ‘index finger pointing belligerently at the interlocutor’. The resulting effect is that of mounting anger and violence in the speaker. In conclusion Duffy lends pathos and a tragic dimension to her character. In order to have a tragic dimension in a character, the character needs to have experienced some sort of tragic event. For Havisham this was the betrayal which causes her to be totally self-aware. As a result this event will manifest itself in to the character of the speaker. This will cause the reader to sympathise with the speaker.
In Kid, Armitage presents a character who seeks to measure himself favourably at someone else’s expense. This makes it much harder for the reader to sympathize with the speaker in Kid than in Havisham. As a result of this I feel that the speaker in Havisham is far more captivating than the one in Kid. This is mainly due to the effect the tragic event of betrayal suffered by the reader, has affected her behaviour. This in conjunction with the various stylistic and linguistic features in the poem make Havisham a more powerful and effective poem.