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"The great pleasure in life is doing what pepole say u can't do it " - Trotiycleaytom

The Worlds Wife

  • Date Submitted: 10/10/2012 07:22 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 63.9 
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LITTLE RED-CAP

The poem is drawn from the story of Little Red Riding Hood, a tale that has come down to us over centuries.   It originated in ancient stories from Asia, but the version we know was shaped in medieval rural France.   It spread across Europe and has a number of variations, although the presence of the little girl [not always in red], the Wolf and the grandmother are constant.   The stories have changed over time and in our own day, the tale has been published in various forms for children and also splendidly subverted by a number of writers and film makers, like Angela Carter in her story, The Company of Wolves which was made into a film by Neil Jordan in 1984.

It is about growing up and the dangers of either ‘straying from the path’ or behaving in an unsuitable way with ‘wolves’.   In the earlier stories it is notable that the girl rescues herself by outwitting the wolf and getting the help of other women, whereas in the later versions she is rescued by a woodcutter.   Modern writers are giving Red Riding Hood back her ‘feisty’ nature.   Some basic research via a search engine on the internet will give you a wealth of material relating to this and other fairy tales, if you are interested.

Little Red-Cap is a sexual and revolutionary symbol.   Red is the colour of passion and of blood which is associated with menstruation and therefore with sexual maturity.   In the French Revolution, the revolutionaries wore red caps as a sign of their allegiance and paintings of the time show them led, symbolically, by a bare breasted woman wearing ‘the cap of liberty’ and carrying the tricolour.

Duffy uses both of these ideas within her poem, which is partly autobiographical.   When she was sixteen she met the poet Adrian Henri at a poetry reading.   He was 23 years older than her, but she went to Liverpool University to be with him, and their relationship lasted for ten years.

The poem begins as a metaphorical journey through life represented by playing...

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