‘The Worlds Wife’ in which Duffy gives a voice to female characters that may have been ignored throughout history. The poems are presented through the point of view of these women and in many cases it is the first time that we, as an audience hear their side of the story, rather than a story that has been told for them.
Medusa matches the other poems in this anthology as Duffy presents Medusa as she sees herself but she is still shed in a negative light, which she willing presents to the reader as she is perversely pleased by it. Duffy uses clever diction and sentence structure to add to the representation of the persona as well as punctuation and techniques, most significantly rule of threes, to effectively display the persona and the themes of growing rage, stone, revenge and self absorption.
Duffy wastes no time in jumping into Medusa’s perspective as the first line proves. The poem starts on a bitter note with “a suspicion, a doubt, a jealously” which is significant for numerous reasons. Firstly, the diction of jealousy alone is important because it suggests the breeding of ill feelings at the start of the poem which reflects how Medusas life as a monster began in much the same way.
Also, the rule of three contains nouns that build on each other are progressive as Medusa graduates from a suspicion to as doubt and then becomes jealous, an idea which is also suggested by the caesura of commas rather than full stops, indicating that the nouns flow together and are linked rather than being separate or distinct. The first line is organized in a way that makes the growth of negative feelings evident which foreshadows the growth of rage and hate expressed later in the text while the progressive rule of three effectively foreshadows the continued use of the same technique throughout the poem.
The growth of negativity is supported again in the following lines which imply that Medusa’s feelings were so strong as to be represented physically through the turning of the hairs on her head to filthy snakes. The snakes are obviously a tangible representation of the growth which Duffy emphasizes all the more the length of the line. Being longer than ever y of line of the poem is it a clear, visible reflect of the actual growth of the snakes that represent Medusas anger.
The first reference to the theme of stone is made in the second stanza, in which the persona describes her lungs as “grey”, which indicates that Medusa’s lungs that support her life, are hardened, colourless and decayed, replicating her emotions and reflected the effect that she has on living being which is to turn them to stone. While the imagery of the grey lungs suggests lifelessness, it is immediately contrasted by the image of “yellow fanged” which is a link back to the snakes that are alive and thriving on her head.
The combination of the two images suggests that Medusa herself is dead but possesses life because she is fully embodied by the snakes, and everything that they represent, an idea that is backed up by her having yellow fangs as if she is now a snake, not human. Stone is suggested again in the second stanza through the metaphor of “bullet tears” which relate to the hardness of stone and imply that Medusa’s emotions murder or kill as bullets do, which is evident later on in the poem.
The first sense of Medusa’s feeling of self importance are apparent at the end of this stanza with the rhetorical question of “are you terrified”, suggesting her pride in the monstrosity that she is viewed as and also the fact that it is immediately followed by an answer in the form of a command implies that the actual answer of the man that she is talking to is unimportant and she is indifferent to it which emphasizes her own self importance. However, the man, the “Greek God” is displayed with some importance, though meager compared to hers, as he manages to catch her eye.
It is him that she loves and since he has been special enough to attract the attention of one as high as medusa he should be scared because her attention is one him rather than ignoring him and also that fact that he catches her eye is fitting because it is exactly that that will turn him to stone. The third stanza has a link back to the first in “I know you’ll go, betray me”. Both suggest Medusa’s lack of trust and bitterness by how easily she passes negative judgment on the man before he has a chance to act as such.
This negative outlook may be a partial cause to Medusa’s selfishness, leading her to believe that nothing is worth her time. Her selfishness and lack of caring about even those that she supposedly loves is displayed through the final line in this stanza: “so better by for me if you were stone. ” It is only what is better for her that matters which again puts her, the only moral of the Gorgons, on a pedestal above a Greek God. In the next three stanzas the tone changes from a passive and indifferent statement of facts to an active narration of her deeds that emphasize her rage, especially as she draws particular attention to her actions. I will look at the following three stanzas collectively as there are techniques spread through them. Medusa’s hate and spite become obvious now and grow rapidly, which links back to the first line with the progressive rule of three. The same technique is used again in these three stanzas though more disjointed than before. The intensity of medusa’s gaze increases in the first line of each stanza form glanced to looked to stared, with is another progressive rule of three as one thing builds on another and it replicates the expansion of her rage through time.
The growth of medusas hate is also suggested through the size of the stone that she creates. Starting with a tiny pebble from a bee and progressing to a boulder metaphorically implies that as her hate increases, so too do her destructive powers as the two are directly linked. To support this notion, another progressive rule of three flows through the three stanzas. The way in which the stone drops from the air increases with Medusa’s rage as well with verbs of increasing severity: “fell, spattered, shattered” which is another clever technique that Duffy uses to emphasize and enforce the previous two points.
Now focusing on only the sixth stanza, the verb “stared’ holds significance aside from the rule of three that it forms; “stared” again emphasizes medusas opinion of self importance as she spare the animals a mere glace or look both devotes far more time and intensity to herself because she is of more significant. Also, while everything else that she looks at turns to stone, she does not when she stares at herself which implies that she cannot be converted because she is already hard and cold as stone at heart.
Following on in the sixth stanza, medusas anger seems to reach its epitome and its colossal size is represented by the imagery of the dragon, fire and the mountain. The three final lines of this stanza can be interpreted in two ways. There is the obvious link to the metamorphosis that takes place between animals and stone in the previous two stanzas which implies that medusa looked at the dragon and made it a mountain. However, unlike the other examples of medusa turning animals to stone, the dragon is separate from the mountain by a full stop where previously it has been a comma.
The deliberate change in the punctuation pattern separates the dragon from the mountain while, suggesting that when Medusas stares into the mirror she see that dragon that is herself. If medusa is metaphorically a dragon then the growth of her anger is again insinuated because previously in the poem she was presented as a snake but now towards the end she has grown into a larger and fiercer reptile. While the dragon may be medusa the mountain represents her rage as it is an indication of its massive size while the fire goes to support the implication of raw anger.
In stanza 7, the tone again changes back to how it was at the start of the poem with medusa addressing the greek god again. Medusa appears to be justifying her hate towards the man in this stanza by stating that he has a shield for a heart and a sword for a tongue. The metaphors suggest that the man never really loved medusa as she loved him and that he played her, finally hurting her with is words and his betrayal which is why she seeks revenge.
Though medusa may blame the man for what she has become, she appears to like herself better the way she is now which is indicated through the last three lines of the poem. A content, menacing and proud tone accompanies look at me now as if medusa likes who she is. Also, since what she is now is contrasted to how she was when she was young, the is a suggestion that while she was young and naive she was ignorant to how she should be, where as now the she is older she knows that she is as she should and thinks highly of herself for it.
The importance of what she is now is emphasized by the fact that the line forms a stanza on its own. Through most of the poem, beautiful things are being turned to rigid, lifeless stone which is summed up entirely in the last three lines in which state that medusa made that transformation herself, from beautiful life to death stone, emotionally at least and then she brings the same to others. Finally, the diction of “look” in the last line is both fitting and ironic because it is that very look that will literally turn you to stone just as she has been metaphorically turned to stone herself.
Throughout the poem duffy displays medusa in a way the she has not been seen before. In many instances the man appears to be blamed for what she has become as though it I know fault of her own, though she seem perversely pleased with herself, which, from her perspective, sheds her in a positive light. Although the reader cannot shake the negative connotations that have been developed with medusa it is evident that she thinks very highly of herself, and what do the opinions of other, insignificant, people matter to one who is as self important as medusa?