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...
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