‘Dickens and Havisham’ Carol Ann Duffy:TUSI Notes

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Carol Ann Duffy is an expert at exploring the uneasy aftermath of love. Both her poetry collections Mean Time and The World’s Wife give representation to the loss of love and the ways in which human beings have to negotiate their crippling sense of romantic loss through language. Some of her characters are indeed so famously ‘out of love’ that they have attained mythical status for being so violently abjected from romance. I am thinking here of Duffy’s poems Havisham and Medusa in particular,where the female characters have been rendered utterly grotesque due to their permanent estrangement from love. In these poems, Carol Ann Duffy attempts to bring new perspectives on their original predicaments, avowing her desire to speak something ‘hard and truthful’ in her writing, in order to make her readers think differently about old stories or events. In this way, Duffy can be regarded as a poet of recuperation, restoration and sometimes even healing. This essay will analyze her superb re-visitation of one of the most grotesque figures in English literature,Dickens’ Miss Havisham in his novel Great Expectations.Miss Havisham in Great Expectations is a figure emotionally trapped by her inconsolable grief, after being jilted at the altar years before the novel begins. Miss Havisham’s profound hurt is externally reflected by Dickens in his description of Miss Havisham’s eccentric appearance, for she is still wearing her wedding dress,years after her failed wedding ceremony. Even the banquet remains in place, rotting in Satis House, her mansion home, and Dickens’ young narrator Pip, notices that all the clocks in the room have stopped at a certain time. This is a frozen, emotionally static world where growth seems impossible. Miss Havisham’s room is a tomb,enshrining her hurt in dust and decay. Miss Havisham is pathologically dedicated both to her suffering and to her desire for revenge upon the male sex…

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