Medusa by Carol Ann Duffy

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The world’s wife is a compilation of poems published in 1999 and written by Carol Ann Duffy, a modern feminist poet. It covers various myths in order to give women a voice. This includes the short monologue like poem: “Medusa”. How do metaphors, symbols and allegories contribute in clarifying the meanings of the poem? Primarily, they emphasise Duffy’s feminist ideals, Medusa’s emotions and aging difficulties.

Medusa, the protagonist, uses the myth metaphorically in order to create a modern and reliable tone, allowing a wider audience and switching the focus from her actions to her feelings. The poem rehabilitates the bad image methodology gave Medusa by making her go from a stoned hearted character into a humane one. Duffy asserts: “Poets deal in … trying to find the language and images for intense feelings.” (n.d, p. 2), based on the poem, jealousy destroys Medusa while in the Myth it is Athena’s. We can comprehend it through a metaphorical use of language: “jealousy grew in my mind”. It started growing in her and when it had no more place, outside, as dirty and vicious hair: “filthy snakes” (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.3), which are literal in the myth but metaphorical in Duffy’s interpretation. To Medusa the snakes symbolise her “thoughts” spitting on her “scalp” (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.4-5), as she could not hold it inside anymore, leading to grief. The theme of sadness never vanishes. However, it is mostly evident in the second stanza, when she mentions: “bullet tears” (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.10), reflecting the myth while contrasting it by adding some humanity; a monster does not cry. It is a paradoxical phrase as bullets are dangerous and violent objects when tears are weak and soft. It is also ironic as her tears fall from her eyes, which turn men into stone in mythology. Duffy metaphorically expresses that Medusa’s tears are as harmful as bullets, especially to herself; they make her mad. If sadness reduces, anger increases. In the second stanza, we are given a rhetorical question: “Are you terrified?” (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.11), it is her first menace to the “Greek god”, (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.14). However, it is used as a cliché here, for the “perfect man”, (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.14). Medusa stays vulnerable even when showing hints of violence: “I know you’ll go, betray me … so better by for me if you were stone”, (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.15-17), it sounds like he did not mistreat her yet, like she became paranoid because of past betrayals. The word “Stone”, (Duffy, 2008, p.1, l.17), recalls the myth but is only a metaphor here: stone cannot break a heart; it can be controlled and owned forever. Instead of becoming a monster in the eyes of others, she becomes one in her own. She puts the curse on herself and is the only one with the power to stop it, and live in society again. The poem on itself is a metaphor, one for aging: the sudden loneliness, and vanishing youth and beauty. It is structured in seven stanzas of six lines plus a concluding and solo phrase: “Look at me now”, (Duffy, 2008, p.1), symbolising her solitude; she is as separate from population as this sentence is from the other stanzas. A violent atmosphere and depressive mood inhabit this chaotic journey, which results in an ordering tone and passive voice, emphasising Medusa’s newborn power. This phrase is written in the present tense, making it straightforward, which creates anxiety in the reader. Firstly it could be interpreted that she has defeated her fears and is ready to provoke men and face them, showing feminism. Secondly that she now accepts to be seen or at last, that she declares her ability to paralyse men. Metaphors are crucial as they grow along but symbolism also holds a leading role.

Snakes’ symbolisms are numerous, (Emerson, n.d, p.1), Freud argues that snakes symbolise men’s penis. When Medusa pronounces: “filthy snakes”, it sounds like sexual relationships disgust her. However, snakes also represent sensuality, (Emerson, n.d, p.1)...
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