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)
NOTE THE WORD CHOICE OF ‘AT LEAST TWO EXAMPLES’ HERE. THIS MEANS YOU COULD GO FOR QUOTE PLUS STRONG ANALYSIS X2 OR QUOTE PLUS WEAK ANALYSIS X4 OR 2+1+1.
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)
THE POINTS BELOW ARE EACH WORTH 2 MARKS. YOU WOULD ONLY NEED 2 OF THEM TO GET YOUR 4 MARKS.
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.