I have an English essay due on Mrs Faust by Carol An Duffy and I have no idea how she creates a character or persona. Any help would be much appreciated
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I am very happy to assist you, but I have to state that it really bothers me that someone - who is approaching an exam - asks a question like this. How a writer creates character and persona is at the heart of critical analysis. I am just surprised you do not know such skills. The answer to how a writer creates such character aspects is:-
1 how a character acts
2. the way a character speaks.
It could be argued that the The World’s Wife is Carol Ann Duffy’s most feminist work. It is a poetry selection which is entirely based on feminine voices. Apart from ‘The Kray Sisters’ - which consists of the composite voice of twins - all other poetic texts gathered in the volume are dramatic monologues written from the point of view of one female persona. Most of the female voices poetically imagined within the book draw on the lives of wives of famous historical, fictional or mythical males: Frau Freud, Mrs Darwin, Mrs Midas, Anne Hathaway, Delilah, Penelope etc. Where history has effectively ignored these women, Carol Ann Duffy brings them alive in a spectacular fashion.
The poems in The World’s Wife perhaps inevitably chart a gradual break away from the conventional attitudes to gender and certainly heterosexuality. The poems, implicitly document the seductive attractions, for women, of collusion with the patriarchal system - including the access to power and wealth.
Now to your question. The answer is words, words, words and the order the poet chooses to place his/her words.
1. First things first - I married Faust. To be “Mrs Faust” traditionally implies that a Mr. Faust has married her. However Mrs Faust dismisses such a proposition. And she does that in the very first words that she speaks. As she states “First things first.” A wonderful way of undermining the role and position of the male. Yes she married him but not because he married her: she married him because she decided to marry him.
As has often been commented the power of these women that Duffy chose to describe in this volume of poetry are frightening. Each and everyone of them is the intellectual superior of their husband. They have a wit and an intellect that dwarfs their husbands. Indeed the reader sometimes is forced to wonder what it was that made these women marry their historical husbands. These is a phrase - and yes it is insulting - to refer to the wife as the “little woman at home.” In Duffy’s poems she turns that phrase upside down. In her poems it is the “little man at home.” And the effectiveness of such an idea is that all these husbands were considered to be giants who strode across the world and to whom the world belonged
2. We worked. We saved. We moved again.
Again it is the pronoun that is the critical word. Traditionally it was often thought that it was the male who was the provider. Although in todays world such a idea is demonstrably wrong: family earnings are now a joint contribution. However in those days it was the man who earned the family wealth. Through the use of the pronoun and through the use of repetition Duffy demolishes that idea. Mrs Faust insists that she was an equal partner in generating the family wealth. Today that is not an idea that would surprise but it those days that is close to revolutionary.
3. I grew to love lifestyle,
not the life.
He grew to love the kudos,
not the wife.
He went to whores. I felt, not jealousy,
but the chronic irritation.
I went to yoga, t’ai chi,
Feng Shui, therapy, colonic irrigation.
Mrs Faust is a level headed and practical women. Clearly she was not used to wealth and what it could provide but through her marriage she came to enjoy the kind of living that riches can bring.That said Mrs Faust differentiates between what wealth can provide and the behaviour of the wealthy. “I grew to love lifestyle, / not the life.” She clearly is highly critical of her husband and his morality. Faust was a scholar who was bored with his life and makes a bargain with the devil that if the devil would provide his with knowledge and magic powers then he Faust would give the Devil his soul. O.k. it is a dangerous and stupid bargain to make, however Faust does not use these powers to affect good. Instead he uses the powers for self gratification. And that life Mrs Faust is highly critical of. You get a clear view in the following lines why Mrs Faust did not like the life that Faust conducted. However in the final two lines of the verse we see the difference between the couple. Faust uses his powers for self gratification: Mrs Faust devotes her time to improving herself and her powers and skills. Where Faust is all about self pleasure, Mrs Faust is all about self improvement. Verses 3 to 8 explore the life style of Faust and Mrs Faust’s criticism of that life style.
4. As for me,
I went my own sweet way,
saw Rome in a day,
spun gold from hay,
had a facelift,
had my breasts enlarged,
my buttocks tightened;
went to China, Thailand, Africa,
In the final verse we see the difference between the two. Mrs Faust is not above some self gratification but her life is really about improvement - and yes even the physical - but essentially about intellectual improvement. Both hisband and wife travel, but there is a clear difference in why they travel and what they gain from traveling.
Faust’s wealth allows Mrs Faust to live her own life. Not at all an exceptional point in 2018, but in those days unheard of. If there is a point of criticism in Mrs Faust it is that she exploits Faust - and his wealth - for her own advantage. But then since in doing that Mrs Faust demonstrates her independence as a person maybe that is not a criticism.