Carol Ann Duffy Notes

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The poem closes with reminders of oppression, control and confinement. Possibility that was once limitless for the dolphins now has 'limits' imposed upon it that will become impossible to bear. The realisation will probably hasten the creatures' death, signalling that there is as much at stake from a psychological perspective as there is from the physical circumstances. Stifling of natural impulse and behaviour can have fatal consequences. The 'plastic toy' is a further reminder of the indignity visited on this majestic creature of the ocean. The phrase until the whistle blows is potentially ambiguous. In one level it simply refers to the controlling device used by the keeper but on another the poet might be reminding us that this sort of cruelty will continue until somebody exposes it for what it is. Duffy does effectively 'blow the whistle' on such practices. The final line, with its reference to 'our mind', neatly links the plural possessive pronoun with the singular noun 'mind' indicating a collective voice for a species. The tense change to 'we will' draws attention to the contrast between what the dolphins had, what they have now and can expect in the future. As a result, the dolphins assume an almost mythic status in that they appeal to archetypal impulses in us and in nature; they are not just the creatures who form part of it. 'The Dolphins' may just as easily be read as a poem about human disillusion, betrayal and loss of direction as it is about animals. As an interpreter of experience it offers us a new language into which we would do well to translate ourselves. Foreign

Duffy's preoccupation with language is dealt with here form the perspective of its cultural significance as much as its ability to say anything. To the immigrant, the country to which he or she has moved out of economic necessity will always be 'foreign' but the indigenous population will regard them as foreigners. The fact that living in a foreign culture is something that is not...
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