???Havisham??? by Carol Anne Duffy is one poem in which the poet explores loss. The poem is written as the monologue of an elderly woman whose fiance had, in her youth, left her at the altar. The woman is so devastated that she cannot progress in life and dwells on what could have been. After experiencing the loss her future husband and her opportunities for the future, she is unable to take off her wedding dress, clear away the decorations from her wedding day, or move on. It is my intention to explore how Duffy explores loss through her use of word choice, imagery, structure, symbolism and monologue, in order to deepen the reader??™s understanding of this emotion.
The poem is written as a monologue. By allowing the reader to delve into the mind of this rather disturbed woman, one can appreciate the conflicting emotions she experiences from her loss. Using monologue, Duffy allows the character to give a very bias account of her situation. There is no mention of her would-be husband??™s name or reason for his actions.
This technique allows Duffy to illustrate the intensity of her emotion. The reader can hear the desperation in the narrator??™s voice. In stanza one Miss Havisham refers to her fiance as ???beloved sweetheart bastard???; the strong consonant here suggests the venom with which this is said. Examples of Duffy using the character??™s tone, and the way in which the words are said can be seen throughout the poem. Miss Havisham caws ???noooo??? at the wall, seen in stanza two. Here, the regret which the character feels is made apparent, as the character screams in defiance at what she has become. One can sense the pain and desperation consuming her and empathises with her state. Duffy repeats the use of repeated strong consonants in the closing line of the poem; Havisham warns ???don??™t think it??™s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks???. In this instance the effect is extremely different, it seems the character is breaking down and bursting into tears. Contrastingly, the character no longer seems vengeful and bitter, she seems heartbroken. In allowing the reader to hear the way in which the words are said, which could only be achieved through the use of monologue, Duffy conveys the range and strength of the character??™s feelings. She deepens our understanding by showing the devastating effects of loss and the different reactions one can experience.
Duffy uses imagery also, to deepen our understanding of Miss Havisham??™s plight. Again, she suggests the intense emotional turmoil of the character, as she drifts from sadness to rage. The character wishes her fiance dead and Havisham has cried so profusely she feels she has ???dark green pebbles for eyes???. The metaphor here compares her raw, hardened eyes with stones. Duffy suggests she has almost lost the ability to cry, as her eyes have dried out. Making this connection suggests that the character has countless nights crying for her fiance, and so the extent of her sorrow is revealed. Havisham goes on to describe the ???ropes on the back of (her) hands (she) could strangle with???. This image is violent and aggressive. The character has envisioned strangling or hanging her husband out of the sheer hatred she feels toward him. The ???ropes??? could also be referring to the thick veins on her hands, which have developed in her old age. Duffy highlights the character??™s age to convey the idea of lost opportunity. Miss Havisham has wasted her life; in her old age she has achieved nothing and merely sits wallowing in her past, unable even, to remove her wedding dress or wash.
Duffy uses contrast to compare reality for Havisham to what could have been. This suggests the idea of lost opportunity. The woman having remained in the same clothes and not washed for many years is filthy. The poet describes ???the dress/ yellowing???. Wedding dresses are white, which is supposed to represent the purity and innocence of the virginal bride. As the character??™s dress is no longer white, that sense of hope is destroyed, she is no longer innocent and young. Her chance at happiness has decayed and disappeared. Duffy illustrates very effectively here the loss of opportunity and suggests the helplessness of Havisham??™s situation. Further references to the wedding ceremony are used in stanza four. While walking around her large house, looking at the decorations left from her wedding day Havisham ???stab(s) at a wedding cake???. The cutting of the cake is traditionally done by the couple together, representing one of the first actions performed together as man and wife. Havisham ???stab(s)??? at the cake, and does so alone; the violence with which the action is performed suggests the hatred and resentment she has for her fiance. It is almost as though she imagines the cake represents him in some way. Duffy uses this strong word choice to convey the characters intense rage. These references allow the reader to see the extreme and sometimes violent reaction of those who have experienced loss. Also, the lost opportunity is illustrated; what could have been a joyous day has been lost forever.
Havisham??™s conflicting feelings are further explored by Duffy in stanza three. The character dreams of her lost fiance, fanaticising about him ???over her??? and the intimate moment they could have shared. ???I suddenly bite awake??? ??“ dreams of fiance, violent reaction, miss regret turns to hate.