Comparison of Duffy’s ‘Lizzie, Six’ and ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’
In this essay I will be comparing two poems by Carol Ann Duffy; ‘Lizzie, Six’ and ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’, both of which explore similar themes of sexuality, yet they portray this in a very different manner.
As mentioned, ‘Lizzie, Six’ and ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’ both portray a sexual persona. However, there is a huge difference between the natures of these relationships. Already from the title ‘Lizzie, Six’, we get the impression that this poem is presenting an underage girl. This, as well as the simplistic, childlike replies in the second line of each stanza, particularly ‘to play in the fields’ shows the ...view middle of the document...
What’s interesting is how Lizzie’s line is always the second line in the stanza, highlighting how she is trapped unable to escape by the persona. Her being the second to speak also shows how her opinions are valued less than the persona in question due to their authority. This structure also implies the girl’s lack of physical space to speak, as for every three lines her abuser has, she is only permitted one, indicating her abuser is also much larger and therefore older.
‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’ is similar in that it too follows a set structure throughout. It is split into four couplets, indicating their togetherness and romance in the relationship of the couple, a complete contrast to that in ‘Lizzie, Six’. Duffy also used enjambment to further demonstrate the ease of their relationship, and how naturally they go together. Like in ‘Lizzie, Six’, there is little rhyme in ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’, however the rhyme of ‘spine’ with ‘mine’ really emphasises how they are the same because of their gender, and their feelings for each other. The mention of ‘her breasts were a mirror’ also shows the symmetry and this creates a sense of intimacy and emphasises how the narrator of the poem has only positive memories of the relationship. This symmetry is directly contrasted in ‘Lizzie, Six’ with Duffy italicisation of Lizzie’s speech, which really distinguishes between the two voices and shows the difference between their characters. Even the appearance of the italic letters Lizzie’s vulnerability and fear of the other voice, as they actually lean and cower away from the rigid letters of the first voice.
Imagery is very important to both poems, and they both really rely on phallic imagery to represent the nature of their relationship. However, again, there are distinct differences between how this phallic imagery is used, and the resultant effects are quite opposite. In ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’, the use of the euphemism and phallic imagery of ‘we drank the sweet hot liquid’ creates the feeling of comfort and relaxation, further highlighting the comfort the narrator feels in their relationship. In contrast, the use of phallic imagery in ‘Lizzie, Six’ creates the opposite effect, with ‘I’ll give you wood’ coming across as threatening and cold, its bluntness truly portraying the harshness and abuse Lizzie must suffer. It’s also quite shocking the way Duffy twists Lizzies meaning of ‘wood’ as in forest into something much more mature, something someone so innocent should not understand.
Duffy also uses many ambiguous terms to emphasise her point and create a different twist as well, often creating very interesting imagery. Her use of ‘fur’ in ‘Oppenheim’s Cup and Saucer’ not only reflects the shock of there being fur in a teacup, linking back to the title and also emphasising the shock of a homosexual relationship, but it also again uses phallic imagery to represent pubic hair. Opening the poem with ‘She asked me to luncheon in fur’ therefore...