The World’s Wife Borrowed From Other Texts

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It is often that literature, whether being a poem or a book, often provides a voice for those who lack one. The work by Carol Ann Duffy is an accumulation of poems titled 'The World's Wife', first published in 1999 and the present works through fantasies, myths, and characters in Western culture from the perspective of women. Her work serves as a voice for women with the utilization of intertextuality into Greek mythology to further extend her message. 

A substantial amount of publications promotes man-centrism, exhibiting the world from a male viewpoint. Duffy, additionally an extreme women's activist, centralizes the view from a women’s perspective, while Greek mythology is enormously delineated from a male's perspective. The composition of the poems was written to rectify feminism, to feature the way that women have for centuries been overlooked and silenced.

The centralizing theme in The World’s Wife revolves around women empowerment and feminism. Duffy provides a voice for individual females to promote a version of their own story and not following a reoccurring mainstream story telling of Greek gods. In Duffy's composition she investigates language to the extent of what is said by a man and what is felt by the women. The introduction of intertextuality provides an intensified effect for the readers and the use of this stylistic device casts a comparison providing an alternative view on her poems and Greek mythology. The utilization of different stylistic devices references through mythology to represent the relationship between men and women or gods and goddesses.

In the poem Medusa, the leading mythological protagonist, is viewed as being devoured by jealousy following the unfaithfulness of her partner creating a poetic tragedy. The poem explores the theme of women empowerment providing a voice for Medusa. The first lines of the poem are composed of a triplet, Medusa states, “A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy grew in my mind,” (stanza 1, line 1 and 2) recollecting back to what is felt by Medusa and followed by, “which turned the hairs on my head into snakes,” (stanza 1, line 3) portraying characteristics of the original Greek myth of Medusa’s head full of snakes. The reader is introduced early on with a cause and effect through the expressive lines which provides a monstrous appeal to Medusa. 

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However, in the case of Duffy’s use of intertextuality, she erases this characteristic and substitutes it with an expressiveness in emotion from Medusa. Through this twist of intertextuality, Duffy is able to exaggerate Medusa’s feature of the original tale to provide her with a voice. The snakes are portrayed as a reaction within herself, repelling the actuality of unfaithfulness. In the original tale, Medusa has the ability to turn objects into stone when she looks at them, Duffy makes concrete use of this power in lines such as, “There are bullet tears in my eyes” (stanza 2, line 5) and the consistent use of turning animals and insects into either a pebble, gravel, brick, or a boulder to symbolize a cold and restricted use of emotion. 

The bullet tears is the beginning of effective imagery of something hard and cold, which later is subsidized by the restricted objects of stone. Duffy utilizes the symbolism of Medusa and her powers to demonstrate the damaging nature of jealousy reflecting what is said by man, and in Medusa’s case, unfaithfulness. What is felt by Medusa is cold anger, using snakes and her powers to turn objects into stone to reflect her emotion of feeling betrayal and turning defenseless objects into stone as a reminder of how warm love turned into a cold tragedy.

In the poem Pygmalion’s Bride, Duffy continues to explore the themes of women empowerment and feminism. The leading protagonist of this poem is Galatea, a sculpture created by Pygmalion. Much like Medusa, Galatea is objectified and simply a craving of Pygmalion. Similarly from the poem and the original mythological story, Galatea comes to life and is able to acquire emotion. Differently from the original myth, Pygmalion and Galatea lived happily, whereas in the poem, it appears as Galatea is recognized as a desire of Pygmalion. The entirety of stanza five indicates objectiveness through an erotic, seductive, and abusive treatment. 

For example, “He let his fingers sink into my flesh” (stanza 5, line 1) provides an erotica, “Propped me up on pillows” (stanza 5, line 9) allocates to seductiveness, and the use of diction such as, squeezed, pressed, bruise, marks, and claws, to express abusiveness. Duffy recasts the the myth from an alternate perspective where Galatea is solely present at the expense of Pygmalion as a conceited fixation in which she is the object of his work. When she has nothing else for defense she can be cold and unresponsive. 

Galatea being a statue is a metaphor for women’s passive power. This is a prime example of Duffy’s use of intertextuality utilizing the symbolism of Galatea to reflect an amused contempt of women to control male insensitivity. The desires of Pygmalion are what is said and done by man, where the description of the relationship from Galatea is what is felt by women.

In the poems Medusa and Pygmalion’s Bride, the two of them share similar characteristics in reference to symbolic meanings and its effect on the male counterpart. Both Galatea and Medusa retain symbolic meanings advocating what is said by man and what is felt by women. As one reads the two individual poems, one can understand that it was not only these two women who were silenced. 

The imprisonment of the women’s emotions and objectiveness of their worth is exposed through two different causes and effects. The style of writing in which Duffy embraces demonstrates her to be exceptionally customary and the opposite with regards to characters in her poems. In The World's Wife, Duffy has concentrated and essentially centralized a substantial amount of works based on Greek mythological characters, however controls them to the degree that she deciphers them to be the opposite. 

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