Carol Anne Duffy's Exploration of Loss in "Havisham"

“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 fiancé 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 fiancé 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,...

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