Carole Ann Duffy’s Salome and Havisham

In Carol Ann Duffy’s post-modern poems Havisham and Salome the poet takes well known female characters (characters who have been highly demonised) and she takes a new perspective on both of them. Duffy takes this new perspective by employing dark imagery, a bleak sinister tone and a clever reimagining of characters we are already familiar with and in doing so attempts to find a new understanding for them.
Firstly the main area of similarly between the two poems is that of gender politics and in this way Duffy takes Charles Dickens’s Mrs Havisham who is presented in ‘Great Expectations’ as a classic female villain and creates a much more complex depiction of her. When Havisham begins by saying ‘Beloved, sweetheart, bastard. Not a day since then I haven’t wished him dead’ this alliteration immediately gives a sense of deep feelings of anguished heartbreak and even though the poem presents a dark and twisted individual she is never the less somehow sympathetic. Furthermore Havisham calls herself a ‘spinster’ and also says of her wedding dress ‘the dress yellowing’. The ‘sp’ sounds as if she is spitting her words out showing that she has great hatred towards what she is become. She is thus the women scorned in her isolation and unhappiness. In Salome however the issue of Gender politics is explored but in contrasting way’s. While there is a sense of violence (suggesting even that she is a serial killer), ‘I saw my eyes glitter, I flung back the sticky red sheets’ which is similar to the violence in Havisham in the way in which it is a women committing violence on a man. It is completely different in Salome’s attitude when she calls him ‘a lamb to the slaughter to Salome’s bed’ in this way the two men in the poem also contrast because it is suggested he is innocent while Havisham’s ex-lover is guilty of jilting her. In both poems this theme of gender politics shows that although they are women they are not acting in the stereotypical way in which women are…