Carol Ann Duffy Valentine Essay Plan

OK, brace yourself, I’ve done a lot of analysis on essay technique in this one: on what I’ve done and why. It’s a request. The requestee wanted to know which bits were especially sophisticated and perceptive and what would make this essay an A*. Bits in courier are my analysis of the essay. Essay is in standard font (ariel).

I haven’t printed the poems here because I do not want to get sued to bits by Carol Ann Duffy. You have a copy of her poems in your anthology.

Here's a podcast of me reading Valentine:

Features of A* Grade Essays

[1] they make a lot of points in a short space of time, and don’t repeat themselves

[2] introduction is snappy and relevant, not just ‘in my essay I’m going to talk about’

[3] conclusion doesn’t repeat itself. It makes fresh points, which are interesting.

[4] the essay may also ask questions, and consider alternative interpretations - i.e. explore the plurality of meaning within the text

[5] student quotes and refers to technical terms in a way that supports their argument (not just to show that they’ve spotted them), linking terms used at the same time.

[6] Personally, I often make points so I can build on them later - like putting a gun on the mantelpiece in Act One so you can shoot someone in Act Three.

How does Carol Ann Duffy present relationships in Quick Draw and Valentine?

The Introduction paragraph states what POV, topic (literal and metaphorical or symbolic) and also theme (briefly) the poet uses. You’ve probably noticed I keep repeating the words of the question ‘relationships’, that I do quote - briefly - but try to keep analysis to a minimum. I make a lot of links between poems in the introduction. Later paragraphs will deal with each poem in turn. I’ve put the ‘sophisticated and perceptive’ bits in italics. However, the entire essay is A* standard in the way it’s woven together, so don’t miss chunks out. i.e. you can’t just quote the italics bit in order to get an A*.

Both poems are in the second person - addressed by the poet to a lover, giving the feel of a love-letter, as if we’re invited to an intimate space. Both take relationships as their topic. In ‘Valentine’, the literal topic seems to be a gift of ‘an onion’, which is a symbol for love, whereas in ‘Quickdraw’, the literal topic is texting on a mobile phone. Phone communication represents the relationship - and the pang of waiting for a response. Both show the dark side of love using unconventional imagery - childish imagery of playing with guns, in the extended metaphor of the Western gun battle in ‘Quick Draw’; the onion in ‘Valentine’. Both show the ‘fierce’ power of love.

My second paragraph is almost always on structure! This one’s no different. It’s easy to spot, clean and quick to deal with. It’s also particularly easy to compare, which lets you score marks for comparison.

‘Valentine’ seems wildly irregular, but is written in iambic pentameter, the jagged edges and abrupt end-stopped lines hiding an underlying calm, unstoppable rhythm, like the beating of a heart. [this is a sentence to die for, even if I do say so myself] The shortest line ‘Here.’ is a fraction of ‘Its platinum loops...’ [don’t quote the whole thing: it takes too long and is unnecessary] - monosyllabic, abrupt, a fragment, but with a soft, breathy quality like an exhalation. Much of the poem is monsyllabic, simple words to show the simplicity of love. The frequent line-breaks give pause for breath, or thought, giving a sense of slow care, while the repetition of ‘I give you an onion’ breaks the poem into two sections, a re-presentation of what it means, and seems to suggest: it always comes back to the image of the onion. In contrast, ‘Quickdraw’ looks very regular, albeit broken mid-line. The mid-line breaks create four stanzas of four lines each, but the abrupt, irregular breaking suggests fracture, or the shots fired in the gun battle - like mini cliff-hangers: ‘you... blast me // through the heart’. Duffy repeats a twisted version of a colloquial phrase at the end ‘Take this’ (normally ‘take that’), mixed with ellipsis ... so when the poem ends, the battle continues, but the words become vague - we can no longer see what’s happening: as if it fades out.

Next paragraphs include imagery, connotations, language and what have you. This is where I go through each poem line by line and try to figure out where I’ll end up in my conclusion. I’m going to do ‘Quickdraw’ first... 

This paragraph put the gun on the mantelpiece (sets up my ideas)

In ‘Quickdraw’, Duffy uses the extended metaphor of a Wild West gun-battle, drawing on popular culture images of the gunslinger, through colloquial words like ‘quickdraw’, ‘choose your spot’ ‘high noon’ ‘calamity’ and the ‘Last Chance Saloon’. The semantic fields are of battle, but a cliched, pop-culture battle that shifts between child’s play and a real gunfight. Duffy narrates the battle as if in real-time, using the present tense: ‘I wear’ and ‘this is’, giving it a timeless quality, mixed with the past tense ‘You’ve wounded me’, which gives the feel this is a real story that has actually happened. 

This one shoots (draws conclusions directly linked back to the question set)

‘Quickdraw’ is dominated by action, and active verbs: ‘ring’ ‘quickdraw’ ‘hear’ ‘groan’ ‘wounded’ ‘speak’ ‘twirl’, rather than analysis or traditionally poetic or elegiac imagery.

This adds to the sense that we’re right in the moment. The image of the standoff, the fire, then return fire, the posturing and facing each other down represents the relationship as one of combat: here through text and phone. This seems to be an early stages relationship - that moment where reply (and its content) is uncertain, builds tension and causes a pang - or pain. ‘Blast me through the heart’ is a metaphor for cupid’s arrow (falling in love), or pain - as in the proverbial phrase ‘you cut me to the quick’. The reactions of the gunslinger ‘I reel’ ‘I fumble’ ‘down on my knees’ are ones of defeat - or submission, of submitting to the power of the loved on.

At this point I’ve run out of time, so there’s no conclusion to this essay and very little on ‘Valentine’. I’ll add more on ‘Valentine’ later...

Good luck and have fun with this!

Get more Of Mice and Men Resources here.

The poem Valentine is written by Carol Ann Duffy. Throughout the Poem she shows the positive and negative sides about love by comparing love to an onion. She does this by using different techniques such as language features such as metaphors, simlies, Imagery and word structure. All these techniques make it interesting because she uses an onion as a girft to represent love and relationships.

In the begining of the poem Duffy starts off with a negative in opening line. “Not a red rose or a satin heart’. She tries to tell her Valentine to not expect anything romantic. This is telling the reader that it is not somthing sweet, romantic or taditional gift but something unique and original. Then in the following lines she sets out why and onion is a good gift. Duffy then uses a metaphor “It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love’. The ‘brown paper’ is the outside of the onion that hides the white vegetable inside. This brown skin is the wrapping paper of the gift, the onion.

Duffy compares her gift, the onion, to the moon being wrapped in brown paper. This picture of the moon represents the whole onion, just afger it has been peeled. The words “it promises light’ give a positive conntation meaning the moons ‘light’ represents love like a new start and begining of a relationship. Moonlight often provides a romantic setting. The peeling of the onion is also like two people taking off each other clothes before they make love “like the careful undressing of love’.

THe different layers of the onion are like the layers of someones discovering the layers in a relationship. Therefore Duffy begins the poeam with a negative conatation and a positive connatation about the onion befoere giving it to her Valentine. In the second stanza of the second line a similie is used “It will blind you with tears like a lover’. To show that onions will make you cry and make you blind of the pain and that love can do the same thing to a person. This shows that she is giving her partner an onion because love can be beautiful but can also cause pain and upset.

She then relates it too “your reflection is a wobbing grief”. Duffy relates this quote to one quote from the other stanza before “undressing love’. Here a metaphor has been used. A ” wobbling photo of grief is compared to a mirror. “wobbling’ refers to photo which has become blurred from the tears created by the onion.When you look at a photo with tears it doesnt give a real image to that photo but a blurred or wobbling image. Also when you begin to “undress’ (discover) when you make love it can also cause you grief. This stanza shows that onions can make you cry and feel pain like love does and a good language feature has been use to help describe the aspects of the onion.

Duffy then laters combines these quotes and makes a last stanza that gives more negative connatations towards the end. Duffy demands that her lover takes her gift ” Take it’. She then talks about marriage ” Its platnium loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like” She suggests that the bright white layers of the onion are relationships and rings. Duffy imagines that the ring is made out of white valuable metal, platnium.

She tries to tell us that the smaller the rings get the more chance of marriage increases but however if somthings ” shrinks’ it becomes less valuable and more restrictive and perhaps somthing at the end of the relationship. Duffy thinks marriage is like a knife ” Its scent will cling to you fingers, cling to your knife.’ The word “knife’ links marriage to a wound, and that Duffy may have been hurt in previous relationships. This shows a negative view of love and that someone had a knife and may have ended the relationship.”

Cling’ has been repeated twice, Even if one brakes up with partner the scent or the thought will be clinged to your mind , like the smell of the onion on knife after its been washed. Therefore Duffy finishs the poeam with a negative connatation and tells us that onions do have simliarities as a ring or relationships. In conclusion Duffy shows her feelings about love in positive and negative connatations throughtout the poem by using different techinques to show how intresting this poem is when comparing love to an onion. And how the reader of this poem should understand why she thought an onion was a good choice as a gift by being original and unique.

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