Valentine - Textual Analysis Marking Guide

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Critical Reading Paper
Carol Ann Duffy
1. In lines 1, 11 and 12, the poet asserts that she wishes to reject
traditional gifts of love. With reference to the poem’s structure,
explain how this attitude is emphasised. (2)
Example answer:
• Duffy’s use of short, one-line stanzas that contain only one short
sentence…
– …emphasises her blunt / direct / unsentimental approach to her
expression of love for her partner. (1)
• Duffy’s repetition of “Not a”, following by several typical gifts of
love…
– … reinforces the similarity of lines 1 and 12, drawing the reader’s
attention to the fact that Duffy continues to reject conventional,
clichéd romantic gestures. (1)
2. The speaker gives his/her beloved an onion. Explain the contrasting
images from lines 2–10 that show the suitability of this gift. (4)
Example answer:
• Duffy compares the onion to “a moon wrapped in brown paper” to
show her unsentimental approach to expressing love.
– The moon is an enormous natural satellite which orbits the
earth. It is a white spherical object which has romantic
associations. Brown paper is fairly dull and lacking in glamour,
and is often used to wrap up objects. (1)
– The fact that Duffy presents her lover with this gift is appropriate
to her unsentimental approach to love, as it shows that, while
she has great strength of feeling for her lover, as suggested by
giving her a “moon”, she nevertheless wants to express these
feelings in an unsentimental way, as suggested by the fact that
she wraps this gift up in “brown paper”. (1)
2. The speaker gives his/her beloved an onion. Explain the contrasting
images from lines 2–10 that show the suitability of this gift. (4)
Example answer:
• Duffy compares her lover’s reflection to a “wobbling photo of grief”
to show that she is aware of the heartbreak often associated with
love.
– A photograph is a fixed image of a person or object. If it is said
to be “wobbling”, it is distorted in some way. (1)
– The fact that Duffy believes the onion will make her lover’s
reflection a “wobbling photo of grief” suggests that her lover’s
tears will distort her reflection when she looks in the mirror. This
indicates both the tears caused by the strong smell of an onion,
but also those caused by often upsetting emotions associated
with a romantic relationship. (1)
3. Duffy’s realistic approach to modern relationships is explored further
in lines 13–17. Show how one example of language demonstrates
this. (3)
Example answer:
• Duffy makes effective use of word choice when referring to the
“fierce kiss” of an onion.
– This suggests the strong, bitter taste of an onion, and the fact
that this taste is not easy to remove. (1)
– Duffy uses this description to suggest that the emotions
associated with a loving relationship can often be very intense
(1), and are not easy to forget. (1)
4. In the final stanza, Duffy makes her thoughts clear on the possible
outcomes of a relationship. With reference to one example of
language, identify her tone and possible emotions. (3)
Example answer:
• Duffy makes effective use of word choice when she states that the
onion’s scent will “cling” to the fingers of her lover.
– This suggests the odour of the onion will stay on her lovers
fingers, and will take a long time to fade away. (1)
– Duffy uses this description to suggest that the emotions
associated with a loving relationship cannot easily be forgotten.
(1) “Cling” also suggests that the lover has no choice about
whether or not to let go of these emotions – they have made an
impact on her that is hard to remove. (1)
The Final Question
• The final question is worth 10 marks.
• It will ask you to compare or contrast the
poem you have in front of you with at least
one other you have studied by the same
writer.
• This should be set out in bullet points.
Final Question – Marking Guide
a) 2 marks can be achieved for identifying things that the two
poems have in common, as identified in the question.
b) 2 marks can be achieved for reference to the text provided in
the question paper.
For one technique / idea / feature, do the following:
– Provide a relevant reference to a technique/idea/feature (1)
– Provide an appropriate comment about it (1)
c) 6 marks can be awarded for discussion of similar references
to at least one other text by the writer.
For three techniques / ideas / features, do the following:
– Provide a relevant reference to a technique/idea/feature (1)
– Provide an appropriate comment about it (1)
5. With close textual reference, show how the ideas and/or language of
this poem are similar OR different to another poem or poems by
Duffy which you have read. (10)
a) 2 marks can be achieved for identifying things that the two poems
have in common, as identified in the question.
• The key points of comparison between Valentine and Duffy’s poem
Havisham are that they both deal with the same subject matter,
romantic love. Each poem is about love, but not the clichéd love of
romantic movies and candlelit dinners; Duffy’s poems are dark and
sinister, often revealing the most unsettling nature of romantic union.
In this way, Valentine and Havisham have many similar ideas and
features.
5. With close textual reference, show how the ideas and/or language of
this poem are similar OR different to another poem or poems by
Duffy which you have read. (10)
b) 2 marks can be achieved for reference to the text provided in the
question paper.
• In Valentine, Duffy recognises the pain which comes with love, the inevitable
anguish and heartache that must feature in any emotional connection
between lovers. She uses language to convey this idea. The choice of a
lover’s gift represented by an onion is unusual and immediately reminds us
of the weeping associated with cutting an onion. She uses word such as
“blind you with tears” and warns that it will “make your reflection a
wobbling photo of grief”. Such imagery reminds us of the trauma of lovers’
arguments and the trials and tribulations of relationships. Rejection,
betrayal and discord all cause us to cry and the onion metaphor is used
effectively to represent this pain. Even the sentence structure creates an
abrupt and dismissive tone with short lines to open verses such as
“Here…Take it…Lethal”, illustrating the commanding nature of the giver of
the gift, almost forcing the onion onto the recipient whether it is wanted or
not.
5. With close textual reference, show how the ideas and/or language of this poem are
similar OR different to another poem or poems by Duffy which you have read. (10)
c)
6 marks can be awarded for discussion of similar references to at least one other
text by the writer.
•
Similarly, the pain of rejection is all too vividly described in Havisham and the poet’s use
of first person again helps to illustrate the devastation caused by romantic discord. The
persona adopted by the poet, that of Dickens’ Miss Havisham, helps to illustrate a
lover’s grief. “Spinster” she cries, devastated at the fact that she has been left at the
altar and the years which follow are wrought with grief. She “spends whole days/in bed
cawing Nooooo at the wall” and the “trembling” of her yellowing wedding dress is a
reminder of her own torment, shaking with loss and hurt over the lover who left her
alone.
•
The violent emotions experienced by each speaker in these poems are also highlighted
through poetic techniques and in each poem love seems a dangerous prospect. In
Valentine the “fierce kiss” of the onion is a metaphor representing the violence of a
possessive and angry kiss which will “stay on your lips”, a sinister reminder that the
effect of a jealous lover will always remain. This is all too clear in Havisham as years
later Miss Havisham speaks of “love’s/hate behind a white veil” and warns that she will
wreak revenge on the man who hurt her so badly. She despises this individual and the
expletive “Beloved sweetheart bastard” to open the poem is immediately an indication
of her vicious and hateful feelings towards him. Word choice “puce curses…bite
awake…red balloon bursting” all create a mood of violence and danger and help me to
appreciate just how unhinged and vengeful this woman is…
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