2‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy ‘Not a red rose’ ‘I give you an onion’
3‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy The poem seems at first to be rather comical: an onion as a Valentine is surely bizarre - how many of you would be happy being presented with this on Valentine’s Day? However, it is in fact is a very serious analysis of love.
4‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy The basics:The poem is written in the first person “I”This appears to imply that the poet is the speaker but the “I” is universal – could be anyoneShe addresses 2nd person “you”Implies that the speaker is addressing a lover ALSO engages as the reader as it is like the speaker is talking to the readerThe “I” and “you” in the poem are never given a specific gender – this poem is truly universal as it can be from any lover to any beloved, regardless of sexual preferences.
5‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy So, the onion…The onion is an extended metaphor (a comparison that continues through the length of a text) for love.Still
6‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “Not a red rose or a satin heart.” Duffy immediately rejects the traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. Why?
7‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “I give you an onion.” Okaaaay………? Why?
8‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper”In Roman and Greek mythology Diana is the Goddess of the moon. So the moon is often thought of as having a soft, gentle, feminine beauty. Diana and Endymion.The moon and an onion are both spheres, so this comparison makes sense in terms of shape but is still confusing in terms of romance.The moon is often associated with romance:e.g. moonlight walks on a beachThe moon is a common feature in romance poetry and songse.g. “Moon River” Andy Williams“Fly Me To The Moon” Frank Sinatra“Can’t Fight The Moonlight” LeAnn Rimes“Dancing In the Moonlight” Toploader“The Same Moon” Phil Collins
9‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy In what ways is the onion like the speaker's love?OnionLoveIt is round like a moonThe moon is associated with RomanceIts skin is whiteIt promises light - light is associated with truth, faith, beauty, innocence, etcYou peel an onionLovers undress each other
10‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “It promises light like the careful undressing of love”Duffy compares the unwrapping of an onion to lovers undressing each other before making love. “Careful” suggests tenderness.
11‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy Do textual analysis questions 1-3
12‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.”simileBecause an onion is light coloured and shiny it is, to some extent, reflective. Idea that tears distort an image –perhaps that of the person looking in the mirrorAmbiguous word choice. Cannot see because of tears but also idea that love can blind us to our lover’s flaws.Duffy seems to address the more negative aspects of being in love: the fact that the end of a relationship is upsetting; and that it is usually the person closest to you who can hurt you the most.
13‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “fierce kiss”metaphorThis metaphor compares the strong flavour of the onion to a passionate kiss. An onion’s flavour stays with us long after we have finished eating it. This metaphor suggests that the kiss will stay with the recipient long after it has ended – almost like a brand.
14‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are.”Not obsessive. Be careful here. Idea of belonging to one another emotionally and sexually.Despite the thought put into the Valentine’s gift, the speaker is pragmatic(realistic) about love – he/she knows it doesn’t last forever.
15‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,”Marriage proposal. Again, rather unusual proposal.Because the onion is pale in colourCompares the size and shape of the inner layers of the onion to a wedding ring. Suggests that only deep/strong feelings of love should result in a marriage proposalTraditional Valentine’s Day cards always contained a marriage proposal.
16‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “if you like.” The speaker is given the choice
17‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “ Lethal Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife”Odd word choice for a poem romantic poemThere is also a hint of a threat in the suggestion that the onion is lethal, as its scent clings "to your knife". The poet shows how the knife which cuts the onion is marked with its scent, as if ready to punish any betrayal. Suggests that betrayals or negative experiences in love “cling” to us and effect future experiences.
18‘Valentine’ Carol Ann Duffy “Here”“Take it”“Lethal”Note the form of this poem: Duffy writes colloquially (as if speaking) so single words or phrases work as sentences: "Here...Take it...Lethal". The ends of lines mark pauses, and most of them have a punctuation mark to show this.
19SummaryIn this intense love poem Duffy rejects traditional symbols of love, such as 'red roses' , 'satin hearts‘ , ‘cute cards’ etc. in favour of 'an onion'.This suggests Duffy is criticising conventional ideas and empty gestures of love.She is promising her lover, and the reader, that her love is more original, honest and true.Duffy shows her wit and poetic cleverness by managing to keep the extended metaphor of the onion being like her love going throughout the poem.By doing this Duffy turns an ordinary object, an 'onion' into an unusual symbol of love, and makes it seem a more appropriate symbol than traditional Valentine gifts.