Tag Archives: Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy 10 marker quotes

Here’s the quotes I would go for in the exam for the 10 marker. Depending on the question, you would word your analysis slightly differently.


‘Beloved sweetheart bastard’
‘ropes on the backs of my hands I could strangle with’
‘don’t think it’s just the heart that b-b-breaks’


‘It promises light like the careful undressing of love’
‘it will blind you with tears’

War Photographer

‘spools of suffering set out in ordered rows’
‘Rural England’
‘A hundred agonies in black and white/ from which his editor will pick five or six’


‘as the miles rushed back to the city, the street, the house, the vacant rooms’
‘my tongue/ shedding its skin like a snake’
‘Where do you come from?/ strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.’

Carol Ann Duffy – Mrs Midas Questions

Mrs Midas (2016 paper)

37. Look at lines 1–12. By referring to at least two examples, analyse how the poet’s language conveys the contrast in atmosphere between stanza 1 and stanza 2. (4)


The first stanza is very calm whereas the atmosphere in the second stanza is excited and dangerous.
The calmness is created through scene setting and word choice in the first few lines. The speaker uses the word ‘unwind’ to show that she is done for the day and is chilling out now as this tells us she is releasing all the pent up energy from her day and work (1 mark). This idea of the household and the people in it calming down for the end of the day is also repeated when the house is personified as ‘relaxing’. It gives a sense that the whole house is letting go of all the worries from that day. (1 mark)
In contrast the second stanza creates excitement and danger, especially with the use of personification to describe the poor twilight lighting. It says ‘the way the ground seemed to drink the light of the sky’. This image uses word choice to suggest a grim impression of the fading light. It sounds intimidating and like there is a fight going on between dark and light. The way the ground is personified as ‘drinking’ also makes it seem like a monster that is trying to devour things around it. This all seems dangerous because the night is made to seem bad. (2 marks)

38. Look at lines 13–24. Analyse how the poet’s language in these lines creates an unsettling mood. (2)

One way in which the poet makes the mood unsettling is through her word choice which she uses to create a list of how Midas looked. Duffy says ‘strange, wild, vain” to describe the look on Midas’s face. Each of these has negative connotations. If he is ‘wild’ then he can’t be controlled, if he is strange then he has become something odd and weird and unfamiliar. If he is vain then he is only concerned with himself. The listing of these adjective also suggests that the speaker is struggling to find the right word to describe her husband. (STRONG 2 marks)
Mrs Midas inserts what she said to Midas into the poem to show her reaction. “What in the name of God is going on?” She is asking him a question. Her word choice of ‘name of God’ shows that she feels upset and distressed by what she is seeing – her husband turn things to gold. She is stressed because it doesn’t make sense and shouts out this question showing her unsettled mood. (2 marks)

39. Look at lines 25–36. By referring to at least two examples, analyse how the poet’s language presents the character of Mrs Midas. (4)


Initially Mrs Midas is ‘rightly’ shocked at what has happened. She says ‘I started to scream’. Duffy uses sibilance here to highlight the noises Mrs Midas started to make. The choice of ‘scream’ tells us that Mrs Midas was very upset when she saw things being turned to gold as she couldn’t understand it. She is presented as reacting typically to something she is scared of. (2 marks)
Mrs Midas is shown to be quite tough and no-nonsense but also a little bit cool. We get this when it says she ‘finished the wine on my own’. The wine had been opened so they could have a nice dinner, but the ‘on my own’ implies that she is sitting taking in Midas’s changes and drinking the wine to calm herself down. There is also an element of punishing Midas here, as she takes the wine from him. (2 marks)
Her humorous side is also shown here as she tells him at the end of stanza 6 ‘You’ll be able to give up smoking for good’. She has obviously been at him to quit cigarettes, and now he is forced to because they turn to gold in his hands. She is mocking him in order to get her head around what has happened. (2 marks)

40. By referring closely to this poem, and to at least one other poem by Duffy, discuss how the poet explores the attempts of characters to cope with life-changing situations. (10)

In Mrs Midas the life-changing situation being dealt with is that Mrs Midas has to deal with Midas’s new gift of turning everything he touches into gold. The poem explores how Mrs Midas deals with this change by telling us her story from her own perspective and the changes she made in her life to deal with Midas.
In Havisham, the life-changing event is Mrs Havisham being jilted at the altar, in the poem we listen to her rant about the event and her inability to cope with the effect this had on her.
In Mrs Midas Duffy suggests that Mrs Midas has come to terms with Midas’s acceptance of his gift. However, she still feels very sad about it as she says ‘what gets me now isn’t the idiocy or greed/ but the lack of thought for me’. Her word choice here shows how some people might think Midas was stupid or was simply materialistic in wanting to turn things he touched to gold, but for Mrs Midas she gets upset because her husband never thought about her when he did it. For her, his acceptance of the gift was selfish as he didn’t consider that it would mean he could never touch his wife again and he forgot about their love for some gold.
In Havisham, the speaker shows that her way of coping with being jilted was to become bitter and mad. This idea is immediate in the opening sentence when she says ‘beloved sweetheart bastard’. The alliteration of the ‘b’ draws attention to what she is saying, it also sounds like she is spitting out the words because these are plosive and sibilant words – lots of b’s and s’s. The words also set up an oxymoron, she loved her fiancé, but thinks he is scum now because he left her. The opening certainly shows that Miss Havisham has become angry after being jilted.
Another thing which suggests her angry madness is when she describes how she has prayed so hard for her ex-fiance’s death that she has ‘ropes on the back of her hands she could strangle with’. This suggests how aged she is as her veins are popping up on the back of her hands, it could also suggests the stress she has put herself through. The idea as well that she is willing to strangle someone – her ex-fiance in particular – suggests how enraged she is still. This is all she fixates on.
Finally, she tells us that she has been totally broken emotionally, physically, mentally and sexually by the jilting as she tells us in her parting lines ‘don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-breaks’. The word choice and layout of ‘b-b-breaks’ makes it sound as if she has broken down at this point. Also saying that it’s not just a heart that breaks shows that being jilted has affected Miss Havisham in every way it could, it has changed how she thinks and how she feels.

Carol Ann Duffy – War Photographer Questions

37. Look at lines 1—6. Analyse how imagery is used to create a serious atmosphere. (2)

There is a massive simile in these lines when it says ‘as though this were a church and he/ a priest”. Here the war photographer is being compared to a priest and his dark room is a church. This suggests that the work he is doing there is very hard work and involves a lot of thinking. The work is slow and takes patience, much like a priest who must spend his time meditating about Christ and tell the people about God.

There is a metaphor that describes the photo reels as ‘spools of suffering’. All the photos are of dead people or war or horrible events that have happened because of war. This creates the serious atmosphere because it shows the materials he is dealing with and what he must share with the world.

There is a metaphor when it says ‘spools of suffering set out in ordered rows’. The orderliness of the film camera reels are being compared to the gravestones in a graveyard. This is supposed to make us think of death and the needless suffering involved in war. This makes the poem serious as it shows that Duffy is talking about the impact of war.

There is an image created when the dark room is described as ‘red’. The word choice here has a double job. It literally describes the dark room as they use red lights so as not to affect the photos during development. It also has connotations though of blood and suffering and the wars that the photographer has photographed. Again, setting the serious tone of the poem as we think about dying.

38. Look at lines 7—12. Analyse how Duffy conveys the photographer’s perception of the difference between life in Britain and life in the war zones abroad. (4)

Duffy makes life in Britain sounds safe. This is done when Duffy says ‘Rural England’. The words are capitalised making it seem like its own little kingdom and sounds strong. The rural bit makes it seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere and it is far away from all the people. It sounds idyllic. We associate rural with farming life which is organic and natural and peaceful.

In contrast the war zones are made to sound scary and terrifying. This is done when it says ‘running children in a nightmare heat’ to describe the napalm attack. The word choice of ‘nightmare’ shows that this was a dangerous and frightening experience. The ‘heat’ shows how uncomfortable the physical experience of the bomb was. The ‘running children’ shows people moving away quickly in fear of the bomb.

39. Look at lines 13—18. Analyse the use of poetic technique to convey the distressing nature of the photographer’s memories. (2)

There is a short sentence to begin the verse – ‘something is happening’. The shortness of it suggests that he has no control over what is going on, it suggests his memories just come to him unbidden. This suggests his distress at these memories as he doesn’t know what memory is going to hit him.

The use of the word ‘twist’ to describe his memory of a dying stranger’s face shows the photographer’s distress as it suggests the memory moves in an uncomfortable way. ‘twisting’ is something we’d associate with a worm or snake and these things are seen as disgusting, we would push them away, much like he’d push the memory away if he could.

The use of the phrase ‘half-formed ghost’ shows discomfort at the memories. They are ghosts, which can show they are of people now dead, or also of times that he doesn’t wish to remember, times he has laid to rest so to speak. They are ‘half-formed’ as they come from his past but could also be half-formed as he tries to suppress them

40. Look at lines 19—24. Analyse how the use of poetic technique highlights the British public’s indifference to the suffering shown in the newspapers they read. (2)

The public’s indifference to the suffering in the photos is shown in the contrasting numbers. The photographer has ‘a hundred agonies’ – a hundred photos of suffering – to show but these are whittled down to ‘five or six’ by the newspaper. This shows that the editors are just looking for an illustration, something that will look fleetingly good with the article, or just to fill up paper space.

The contrast between the atrocities of the photos and the indifference of the public is given in their response to seeing the photos. We are told their eyes ‘prick with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers’. There is a suggestion here that they cry in reaction to the photos as they get teary eyes. However, this is just a stock reaction to seeing something sad. They really don’t care, and this is shown as they’ve still spent time have a leisurely morning bathing and then going for a nice lunch. If they really cared about the images they would get up and do something real in response instead they just get on with their own self-obsessed life.

41. Referring closely to this poem and to at least one other poem by Duffy, discuss how she explores the link between the past and the present. (10)

Duffy likes to create links between past and present in her poems. In War Photographer she creates a link between past and present as the photographer is working on developing his photos whilst reflecting back to when he actually shot them in the war-torn zones of the world. Duffy also looks at the link between past and present in Originally. Here she thinks about how she identifies herself today after moving from Scotland to England as a child and having to reintegrate herself in a new area.
In War Photographer we get a sense of the link between past and present when the photographer is working in his room and keeps remembering things from his past. We are told he keeps seeing ‘half-formed ghosts’. This is effective as it tells us the word choice ghost tells us that the people he is remembering are dead now. The idea that they are half-formed also shows that they are memories, he isn’t hallucinating, just remembering their image faintly. The idea that these memories are ghosts also shows that he is haunted by them. He cannot forget the horrible things he has seen whilst in the war-zones and he often wants to be able to do more. It shows the link between past and present as the photographer is constantly reminded of what he has seen.
In Originally, the speaker shows us she is linking back to the past by taking us straight into a memory. She begins saying “We came from our own country’. This is in past tense and shows she is talking about something that has already happened. As the theme of the poem is identity, her opening sentence also shows that Scotland and Scottishness is what she first identified with. She takes possession of it here, calling it her ‘own country’.
She then starts the second stanza with a statement saying, ‘All childhood is emigration.’ This shows us that the speaker is grown up now and talking from this adult perspective. Her word choice of ‘emigration’ to describe childhood shows us that she feels childhood and adulthood are clearly linked but she reflects that we change as people during these two times in our life. For her this was also a physical shift as she moved from one country to another, but she is also encapsulating the mental and emotional changes that would have happened in this time.
Finally, she then talks about the present by talking about how strangers react to hearing her talk. She says “Where do you come from?/Strangers ask. Originally?” The question is a normal question people ask each other when they first meet someone new. The ‘originally’ is placed on its own as it shows that people can still hear the Scottish lilt to her voice. It shows that she feels she is always seen as slightly other because her accent is mixed. This shows a link between past and present as it shows her childhood upbringing will always be physically present in her voice as her accent.