Carol Ann Duffy - Medusa - Our Expert-Written Analysis Part 1

September 7, 2017

Carol Ann Duffy - Medusa - Our Expert-Written Analysis Part 1

Medua GCSE English Poem Analysis


Text


A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy

grew in my mind,

which turned the hairs on my head to filthy snakes

as though my thoughts

hissed and spat on my scalp.

  

My bride’s breath soured, stank

in the grey bags of my lungs.

I’m foul mouthed now, foul tongued,

yellow fanged.

There are bullet tears in my eyes.

Are you terrified?

 

Be terrified.

It’s you I love,

perfect man, Greek God, my own;

but I know you’ll go, betray me, stray

from home.

So better be for me if you were stone.

 

I glanced at a buzzing bee,

a dull grey pebble fell

to the ground.

I glanced at a singing bird,

a handful of dusty gravel

spattered down.

 

I looked at a ginger cat,

a housebrick

shattered a bowl of milk.

I looked at a snuffling pig,

a boulder rolled

in a heap of shit.

 

I stared in the mirror.

Love gone bad

showed me a Gorgon.

I stared at a dragon.

Fire spewed

from the mouth of a mountain.

 

And here you come

with a shield for a heart

and a sword for a tongue

and your girls, your girls.

Wasn’t I beautiful

Wasn’t I fragrant and young?

 

Look at me now.

Summary

‘Medusa’ is told in the first person as a dramatic monologue by a woman who is insecure and worried that her husband is cheating on her. The poem begins: ‘A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy’ and it is this jealousy which has turned the woman into a gorgon and now everything she looks at turns to stone. This feeling of doubt resonates throughout the poem, exemplified in the line, ‘but I know you’ll go, betray me, stray from home’.

Unlike our feelings towards the traditional monstrous character, this poem evokes empathy for the character as she is clearly distressed and suffering. Especially when she reminisces in the final stanza about the time she was young and beautiful, illustrating her complete lack of confidence.  Nevertheless, she is still presented as a foul character who threatens the reader, with the line ‘Be terrified’.

The poem also ends with the line ‘Look at me now’ which has a double entendre (double meaning). It could be read as a cry of despair or, as a threat – if you did look at Medusa you would die. This leaves the reader feeling conflicting emotions for the character, probably similar to how Medusa herself feels in the poem.

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