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The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High Carol Ann Duffy.

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1 The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High Carol Ann Duffy

2 A poem written in the form of an epic tale. The longest poem in the anthology, its sardonic satirical view of “girl’s school” education as twee and restrictive is hilarious.

3 The poem tells a story of laughter breaking out at the school and infectiously spreading throughout the school. This eventually causes the end of the school and even seems to inspire the repressed teachers to follow their own desires.

4 The atmospheric description of the school with every girl’s name fitting into four syllables seems to represent an education system designed to churn out girls like a factory line.

5 This is emphasised by the lists used every time a teacher is quoted teaching, showing that the education was purely factual and never encouraging thought.

6 The infectious laughter (often described with natural imagery) seems to be an extended metaphor for freedom of speech, and possibly feminist rebellion against such an education system.

7 The infectious pleasure found through rebellion is juxtaposed by the female teachers. Each is shown to be shocked by the student rebellion, but equally is presented as repressed by society in their own lives.

8 The poem is a celebration of rebellion against repressive regimes, and the simplicity of laughter as the catalyst for change is a powerful metaphor which shows that such rebellion is often natural and harmless.

9 Duffy went to a school called “Stafford Girls” which could suggest the poem also presents her views on her own schooling.

10 Every time the teaching of students is mentioned, the delivery is in the form of lists

11 “Egbert, Ethelwulf,Edgar”

12 Every time the teaching of students is mentioned, the delivery is in the form of lists “Egbert, Ethelwulf,Edgar” “Brathay, Coquet, Crake, Allen, Clough, Dudden,Skirfare, Troutbeck, Wash”

13 Every time the teaching of students is mentioned, the delivery is in the form of lists “Egbert, Ethelwulf,Edgar” “Brathay, Coquet, Crake, Allen, Clough, Dudden,Skirfare, Troutbeck, Wash” This shows to suppression of thought in 1960s girl schools and reflects Duffy’s view that women used to be taught to supress their aspiration.

14 The suppression of free will is further demonstrated in the description of Ms Dunn who returns home to

15 “her small terraced house”

16 The suppression of free will is further demonstrated in the description of Ms Dunn who returns home to “her small terraced house” “She roused it each evening, kisses of light on its cheeks from her lamps, the small talk of cutlery, pots and pans as she cooked, sweet silver steam caressing”

17 The suppression of free will is further demonstrated in the description of Ms Dunn who returns home to “her small terraced house” “She roused it each evening, kisses of light on its cheeks from her lamps, the small talk of cutlery, pots and pans as she cooked, sweet silver steam caressing” The sexual language “kisses of light”, “small talk” and “caressing”, coupled with the sibilant “sweet silver steam”, all serve to highlight her tragic loneliness and desperation for a sexual partner while also emphasising the social alienation of single professional women.

18 Whenever the laughter is mentioned, natural imagery is used.

19 “a gurgle, a ripple, a dribble, a babble, a gargle, a plash, a splash of a laugh the sudden jackpot leap of a silver fish in the purse of a pool”

20 Whenever the laughter is mentioned, natural imagery is used. “sparkled and fizzed” “a gurgle, a ripple, a dribble, a babble, a gargle, a plash, a splash of a laugh the sudden jackpot leap of a silver fish in the purse of a pool”

21 Whenever the laughter is mentioned, natural imagery is used. “sparkled and fizzed” “a gurgle, a ripple, a dribble, a babble, a gargle, a plash, a splash of a laugh the sudden jackpot leap of a silver fish in the purse of a pool” “a small human shower of rain”

22 Whenever the laughter is mentioned, natural imagery is used. “sparkled and fizzed” “a gurgle, a ripple, a dribble, a babble, a gargle, a plash, a splash of a laugh the sudden jackpot leap of a silver fish in the purse of a pool” The often onomatopoeic metaphors present the rebellion of the girls as positive and natural – something to celebrate - and therefore the suppression of their voices wholly unnatural. “a small human shower of rain”

23 We are presented laughter as an extended metaphor of the natural human urge to overthrow any tyrannical rule, and that the human spirit cannot be contained.

24 The poem is written as a Mock-epic poem which is effective in delivering its message.

25 Like Milton’s Paradise Lost which details Satan’s rebellion against God, this hilarious satirical poem seems to enjoy its fast-paced description of women throwing off the repression of their conformist education. Similar to Satan in Milton’s work, the girls are heroic, rallying against the education system’s mind-control and repressing their ambitions, and their rebellion is both natural and inspiring.

26 Lacking a rhythm or rhyme scheme, the poem almost sounds like a narrative. This is particularly effective as it satirises the children’s stories of schooldays (like those by Angela Brazil).

27 The poem’s narrative is structured around the infectious laughter that builds into full scale rebellion against the teachers, closes the school and forces the teachers involved to search out their own dreams that they too have always repressed.

28 At the start of the poem, the teachers are seen as strict and without character. By the end, the rebellion of the girls seems to inspire them as they accept who they are and investigate the parts of their character that they have supressed for years.

29 Whenever the laughter is mentioned, natural imagery is used. “sparkled and fizzed” “a gurgle, a ripple, a dribble, a babble, a gargle, a plash, a splash of a laugh the sudden jackpot leap of a silver fish in the purse of a pool” The often onomatopoeic metaphors present the rebellion of the girls as positive and natural – something to celebrate - and therefore the suppression of their voices wholly unnatural. “a small human shower of rain”


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