The
“Worlds Wife” is an assemblage of poems written by the poet Carol Ann Duffy.
The collection was first published in 1999. The poet uses intertextuality to
embed fables and fairy tales in her work. For the poem ‘Little Red cap’
heterosexual relationships are shown to be harmful to women and demoralising to
them. Duffy utilises the poem to be able to express the repercussions of
experiencing a heterosexual relationship. As well as illustrating a man’s
perspective of a woman and of their significance to them. The text further
expresses that heterosexual relationships are purely negative through the heavy
sexual imagery of the wolf.

Duffy
has portrayed heterosexual relationships to be negative in “The Worlds Wife”,
this is suggested by older men taking advantage of women. “The wolf, I knew,
would lead me deep into the woods” the wolf leading red cap connotes of an existing
patriarchal society developing the idea that men are in a stronger position of
power in terms of gender. However, it does not confirm that the wolf is in
complete control of red cap. It can be considered it is red cap’s own decision
to follow the wolf into his lair. This could be viewed as Duffy empowering red
cap from a feminist perspective. Although this is an antithesis for the expectations
for women to obey and follow men’s wishes in a patriarchal society. The poem is
set within in a period in which the stereotype for women is still existing.
Women are meant to be controlled by men and expected to fulfil their
stereotypical roles. The lexis “deep” depicts the foreshadowing of the sexual
imagery that is going to occur further. “woods” could be portrayed as the
unknown which red cap is yet to understand and the consequences of her
decisions. Duffy presents heterosexuality in ‘Little Red Cap’ as a dangerous
path for women, presented by the wolfs past successes of luring women to his
lair only to be sexually deprived. Men are
illustrated to be preying on younger women’s desires and divulges repressed
feelings of being in a heterosexual relationship. The wolf takes advantage of
red cap’s erotic excitement, with this it also reveals how the wolf was capable
to lure in his past victims to sate himself. Exploiting the weaknesses of a
woman, a female living in a patriarchal society, the wolf is able to continue
thriving in a patriarchal society of being a man using sexual pleasure as a
source. In Duffy’s other poems such as ‘Mrs Lazarus’, the wife is determined to
hold onto the memories of her late husband. “one empty glove, white femur in
the dust, half.” When memories of her husband begin to fleet from her, she
comes to the revelation, by continuing to grasp the past she only causes
herself to suffer further. The poet suggests that heterosexual relationships
hold only pain and misery. Through this kind of relationship, attachments and
sentimentality is established thus when it comes to an inevitable end the
history of the relationship becomes meaningless only inflicting only more
suffering.

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The
depiction of heterosexual relationships being “purely negative” is further
explored by the enticement of women by men utilising the method of seduction.
“breath of the wolf in my ear, the love poem” this illustrates the wolfs male
presence is being strengthened by his influence over red cap. The “breath” of
the wolf demonstrates how he is able to seduce red cap, the lexis also could be
interpreted as how simple it was for the wolf to achieve his intentions. Alternatively,
this could be interpreted to have a darker meaning, “the love poem” may be
proposing sexual imperatives instead. ‘Little Red Cap’ is based in a male
dominated society putting forth the idea that men are not restricted by what
they wish to do with a woman. The wolf’s preference to seduce women rather than
to understand who they are illustrates the ignorance of men who are in
heterosexual relationships.  The love
poem is used to indicate the sexual colloquial language that is occurring
between the two. Alternatively, it may just be red cap’s own decision to be
wooed by the wolf surrendering to her own desires which has already be
exploited by the wolf. In the poem ‘Salome’, similarly
it portrays men wanting to woo Salome she inevitably kills. “I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again, sooner or later)” This can imply that
heterosexual relationships are deemed to cause agony. Within ‘Salome’ men are exposed to this by being physically afflicted as a
result for attempting to be in a heterosexual relationship with Salome. This
adds to the idea that heterosexual relationships are only negative in the text,
portrayed also by the limitations that are placed on a woman in a patriarchal
society.

 

In
‘Little Red Cap’ women are viewed as trophies;
therefore men are portrayed to be objectifying the qualities of women. “a
whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books” this
line uses colour imagery to connote of red cap’s materialistic desires.The
books seen by red cap represents the wolfs trophies and achievements he has
collected over time. The quantity of books which cover the surface of the wall
could be suggesting that the wolf has exhausted his space on the wall to add
any other books to his collection. The books could symbolise the virginities of
women that he has consumed over the years and is passively implied that no one
should be ‘owned’ in a relationship. Red cap symbolises the end for the wolf
and cannot be included to his trophies, because of this it demonstrates that
heterosexual relationships inevitably has to come to an end for the woman to be
cleansed of the sins that has been partaken in. From the perspective of red
cap, she could be viewed as the saviour who is tasked to remove the source that
is polluting heterosexual relationships. Duffy highlights the wolf as an
example and the kind of morals to be the root of the issue which is poisoning
heterosexual relationships. From a feminist view point red cap goes to the
length of killing the wolf herself, invigorating her female role in the poem.
Although in the fairy-tale, it is the woodcutter who kills the wolf. The damsel
in distress element has been removed as well as the male hero. In ‘Mrs
Aesop’, she makes it known of Mr Aesop’s ignorance of
his wife and that he fails to acknowledge the presence of his wife. “about a
mile further on, a tortoise, somebody’s pet” This continues the motif that
women are inferior to men, and the further Duffy gets in the time settings this
is still prevailing. Duffy persists on the concept in ‘Little Red Cap” that
heterosexuality shouldn’t be valued and rather to be scorned at because of how
damaging it is to people, especially women. Heterosexual relationships are
shown to be morally negative.

 

‘Little
Red Cap’ enables readers to recognise the strong sexual
themes that are present to identify heterosexual relationships’ issues. From
the poem we can connote that Duffy has written ‘Little Red Cap’ purely from a feministic perspective to reveal that it
mainly has a negative impact on women. Therefore, it can be gathered from the
portrayal of the wolf, men are not to be trusted and be
involved with in a heterosexual relationship. It further suggests in the poem
that men are the source for the corruption of heterosexual relationships and
that it is in need to be cleansed. It connotes that heterosexual relationships have
been tainted by the ways of men and that it must be corrected to its true ways.
Duffy implies that heterosexual relationships are only purely negative because
of how it has been represented by men so far, the unfair and unjust treatment
of women, it is depicted in the text that a heterosexual relationship brings a
harmful and destructive end to those that are in one causing sorrow or grief to
them. 

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