Compare the way poets present relationships in ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ and ‘The Manhunt’.
In Charlotte Mew’s ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ and Simon Armitage’s ‘The Manhunt’, difficult relationships are presented by speakers who are dealing with an emotionally closed partner. Both poems explore how relationships are affected by mental health issues.
In ‘The Farmer’s Bride’, the Farmer marries a girl without getting to know her. As the marriage progresses, the wife’s mental illness gradually develops – at first she ‘turn[s] afraid’, until she tries to run away, and will only speak to animals. This causes the farmer to become jealous, impatient and possibly mentally unstable. In the fourth stanza, the farmer describes his wife as she is to nature – ‘sweet... to her wild self’, then asks ‘but what to me?’ This short sentence reflects his inability to comprehend why she is so ‘sweet’ to nature but not to him – this is the source of his frustration. ‘Her wild self’ could be interpreted as the farmer saying she is herself in the wild, or as him calling her wild. This frustration is displayed in the last stanza, where he says ‘’Tis but a stair betwixt us’. The stairs suggest that the farmer thinks that if he can get past this obstacle between the couple, he can have a normal relationship with his wife, although in reality, it is her heart that is closed to him, not just her door. The final stanza is laid out so that it looks like stairs, for a visual as well as verbal picture. The word ‘but’ could represent his frustration – to the point that he considers forcing himself upon her. The farmer wants passion, but he does not consider love to be important anymore.
The woman in ‘The Manhunt’, however, knows that her partner loves her, but prioritises his recovery over passion. The ‘blown hinge of his lower jaw’ could represent either a physical injury from his war, or the fact that he can’t talk about his trauma – is he injured or emotionally closed? Unlike the Farmer from...
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