Carol Ann Duffy Study Notes
1.‘LITTLE RED CAP’ ‘LRC’ is a poem written by Carol Ann Duffy, and is the first poem in the anthology ‘The World’s Wife’, published in 1999.By interpreting the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood in her poem, Duffy recounts her ten years of marriage to Adrian Henri, who was twenty-three years old her senior.
She places herself as the character of Little Red Cap and Henri as the wolf. Duffy also alludes to fairytales such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in ‘Queen Herod’ or more traditional stories like ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in ‘Mrs. Quasimodo’.
In ‘LRC’, however, Duffy uses the fairytale staple of the woods, symbolically a rite of passage, to represent her change from a naive teenager to a woman who gains sexual maturity and independence, as a woman and a poet. a. Form and structure: POV of Little Red Cap? by extension, this is the POV of Duffy when she was younger? access truest thoughts of the character ? also allows the reader to see how she progresses from a naive young teenager who is struck by the wolf’s (and by extension Henri’s) sophistication and, more importantly, physical features to someone who has seen past this illusion and is more mature . Key features: Duffy’s use of the fairytale? seeing through illusions to find truth, leading to transformation? the illusion that Little Red Cap has to see through ? also may contain a moral, as fairytales do. While LRRH may have focused on never trusting strangers, this one may be about learning to trust and know yourself before anything else (girl gains independence at the end- ‘I took an axe’, etc. )? links to self-discovery? Duffy also subverts the original tale by removing the passive female protagonist who gets saved by a man, into someone who asserts her independence by taking ‘an axe to the wolf’ herself
Setting? contributes to the theme of self-discovery and awakening ? we begin ‘at childhood’s end’, where ‘the house petered out’ ? there is a sense of safety and innocence lost, as she is on her own ? the listing in the first stanza presents a world that encapsulates childhood (‘playing fields’), work (‘factory’) and retirement (‘allotments’) ? she has left the microcosmic reality of childhood, inside her house, and is surrounded by this vast expanse of life? sense of being overwhelmed? but before she can join them she must go through the woods? ymbol of a rite of passage? somewhere unknown, fearful that LRC must traverse through in order to come out the other side with her ‘flowers, singing all alone’ Characterization of LRC? throughout the poem, the dynamic of the relationship between LRC and the wolf, as well as the states of each character change ? represents Duffy’s changing and growing dissatisfaction in her marriage to Henri? character represents Duffy at age sixteen (young)? described as ‘sweet sixteen…waif’, emphasizing her innocence and naivety ? casual tone (‘You might ask why. ), again highlights her juvenility, which attracts her to the more mature wolf? attraction causes whirlwind romance (‘I clung till dawn to his trashing fur’/ ‘my stockings ripped to shreds’) ? emphasized through violent verbs, and her need to seek justification (‘what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf? ’)? suggests she doesn’t really know what she is doing? so, it takes ‘ten years in the woods’ to come out the other side? she undergoes her rite of passage? represents the disillusionment caused during the final years of Duffy’s marriage? fterwards, she gains independence (repetition of ‘I’), and by doing so she finds her own voice within her femininity in the final lines of the poem (‘I come with my flowers, singing, all alone’) Characterization of the wolf? represents the older Adrian Henri ? character progresses in the opposite way of LRC ? he starts off at a higher status, but falls from grace at the 6th stanza’s turning point ? introduced in stanza 2? Duffy emphasizes his masculine, physical qualities (‘What teeth! ’), emphasized by allusions to the original tale, as well as the regular rhyme scheme (focuses on ‘hairy paw’, ‘bearded jaw’)? lso creates a juvenile tone, emphasizing LRC’s schoolgirl attraction to him, and how he has the upper hand status-wise ? portrayed as mysterious, sophisticated and confident (contrasts with juvenility of LRC)- ‘red wine staining his bearded jaw’- it is red wine, not blood? also has connotations of illusion? however, in the 6th stanza she sees through the illusion ? realizes the ‘greying wolf howls the same old song at the moon’? implies that she was only taken by the initial lust for him, but that she has become bored and dissatisfied over time? caesura and parallel structures (‘year in, year out’) emphasize this? o she emasculates him (‘one chop, scrotum to throat’), relinquishing him of his power, becoming independent In conclusion, Duffy manages to explore the themes of self-discovery and independence as she takes a look back at her 10-year marriage to Adrian Henri. She cleverly places herself and Henri as the characters Little Red Cap and the wolf, subverting the traditional fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood and by doing this, uses the fairytale staple of seeing through illusions. Finally, Little Red Cap emerges out of the woods, completing her rite of passage.