Havisham- Carol Ann Duffy

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In her morbid poem 'Havisham', Carol Ann Duffy redefines one of Charles Dickens' most memorable characters, Miss Havisham. Jilted at the alter by her one true love, Dickens portrayed Havisham as an old spinster, her life wasted away trying to gain revenge on all men. Through her dramatic monologue 'Havisham', Duffy gives the disturbed old woman a voice to express her feelings about her wasted life. One of the themes that I found fascinating in this poem was the idea that a moment of betrayal can destroy a persons life and identity. After introducing her lover as “beloved sweetheart bastard”, Havisham tells us that “not a day since then/ I haven't wished him dead”. The preposition “Then” clearly refers to the day her lover abandoned her on the alter, and we can see that Havisham's entire life has been defined by this one moment of betrayal. The cold, bluntness and lack of feeling in these words suggest that Havisham has been so consumed and trapped by this one moment of betrayal, that her life has lost all meaning and her only desire is revenge. In the next stanza we see Havisham spending “whole days/ in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall”. This saddening image reinforces Havisham's wasted life as “whole days” are spent obsessing over one moment long in her past. The bird-like verb “cawing” shows Havisham's dying humanity. She has no human partner for speech or other activities, therefore has resorted to animal behaviours and is losing her sense of identity as a woman. Duffy then describes “the dress/ yellowing”. Havisham's once pristine wedding dress is now seen as soiled and stained through the simple adjective “yellowing”. The fact that Havisham is still wearing the decaying dress 50 years after the day she was betrayed, indicates her inability to let go of this moment, and the dirty, unhygienic garment is symbolic of her whole life wasting away. Havisham's loss of identity and wasted life is again emphasised as she looks in the “slewed mirror, full-length, her,...
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