2S6 Havisham! In today’s lesson, we will... Study a Carol Anne Duffy poem ‘Havisham’.Talk about THEME.Identify and explain poetic techniques.
3‘Havisham’The speaker in the poem is the character of Miss Havisham, taken from the Dickens novel ‘Great Expectations’.In the novel, she is deserted at the altar on her wedding day by her husband-to-be.She is completely devastated and never recovers.She continues to wear her decaying wedding dress, adopts a daughter and brings her up teaching her to hate all men.The poem is a monologue.
4Verse 1 What does the oxymoron in line one reveal about her feelings? Explain the image ‘dark green pebbles for eyes.’Explain the image ‘ropes on the back of my hands.’
5Verse 1Beloved sweetheart bastard. Not a day since then I haven’t wished him dead. Prayed for it so hard I’ve dark green pebbles for eyes, ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.Oxymoron – emphasises her contradictory feelingsHeavy emphasis here perhaps indicating her negative/aggressive feelings are now the dominant ones.Highlights the intensity of her vengeful desires.Hardened emotions? Dark for her evil thoughts of revenge. Green link with jealousy? Lack of transparency – might highlight the way she conceals her true feelings.Accentuated veins - due to age, stress, murderous anger etc.Irony – we usually pray for something good.
6Verse 1 Beloved sweetheart bastard The poem begins as if addressed to the jilting bridegroom. It doesn't continue in this direct address - by the end of the poem the male figure will have become a male corpse - any male (generalised).The most striking thing about the first sentence is the combination of 'love' (beloved sweetheart) and hatred (bastard). Duffy is interested in the unstable combination of desire and hatred.
7Verse 2 Comment on the sentence structure of the first line. What is her attitude to the fact she is unmarried?Comment on the use of the word ‘stink’.Comment on the use of the word ‘cawing’.Comment on the last line – can you explain the structure?
8Verse 2Negative connotationsSpinster. I stink and remember. Whole days in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall; the dress yellowing, trembling if I open the wardrobe; the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did thisEmphasises primitive rawness of emotionsPlaced at start of stanza, one word sentence, bitter tone.Literally true? Or low self esteem?Doesn’t recognise herself – profoundly changed by rejection.Ambiguous – her or the dress? Perhaps she is frightened of looking in the mirror and seeing what she has become.Repetition emphasises intensity of anguishAvian terminology used to show how she feels demeaned or rejected by her lover who has flown the nest?Emphasises her isolation.
9Verse 3 What connotations are there for ‘puce’ (dark purple/red)? What is the speaker describing in lines 10-13?What might this reveal?
10Verse 3to me? Puce curses that are sounds not words. Some nights better, the lost body over me, my fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear then down till I suddenly bite awake. Love’sEnjambment – to convey the idea of run away emotions and a lack of control? To evoke a troubled, restless mind?Dried blood? Disease?Deep red – connotations of puce?Sexual fantasy/dream reveals she cannot rid herself of her desire/affection which now torments her in the living nightmare of her waking existence.When she wakes the hatred and anger return
11Verse 4What could the ‘red balloon’ symbolise and what is the significance of it bursting?Comment on the use of onomatopoeia.What is the tone of this verse?Comment on the use of repetition in the final line.
12Verse 4Shows how fragile love can be.Alliteration . Might symbolise her broken heart, her life destroyed abruptly?hate behind a white veil; a red balloon bursting in my face. Bang. I stabbed at a wedding-cake. Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon. Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.One word sentence/onomatopoeia emphasises power/suddenness of above.Command. A morbid, macabre, erotic perverse request. Deeply disturbed, vengeful and malevolent. Long + slow – combination of enjoyment and tortureRepetition highlights her emotional and psychological fragility. As well as her heart, her mind is now broken.
13ThemesThe poet is effectively exploring a number of themes in this poem.What might they be?
14Themes Damage that can be done by insensitive males/partners. Relationships – the thin line between love and hate.How one event can profoundly affect a life.How some people never recover from personal trauma.How social convention/prejudice can cause unhappiness.
15QuestionsWhy does the poet omit Miss Havisham's title and refer to her by her surname only?Why does the poet write “spinster” on its own? What does Miss Havisham think about this word and its relevance to her?What is the effect of “Nooooo” and “b-b-breaks”? Why are these words written in this way?How far does the poet want us to sympathize with Miss Havisham?Does the reader have to know about Great Expectations to understand the poem?Does Miss Havisham have a fair view of men? What do you think of her view of being an unmarried woman?Perhaps the most important part of the poem is the question “who did this/to me?” How far does the poem show that Miss Havisham is responsible for her own misery, and how far does it support her feelings of self-pity and her desire for revenge?
16Final ThoughtsPerhaps Miss defines the character socially - whereas the poem concentrates on the nature of the character's individual feelings - the character's psychological/sexual nature, rather than her social being.The lack of ‘miss’ makes her seem less of a woman. However, Duffy wants to examine the sexuality of Miss Havisham and explore the sheer amount of pain the character has suffered. This is why Duffy chooses to write the poem in the first person.