The World’s Wife was written in a way that the positions of man and woman are explored with a feminist point of view. Carol Ann Duffy wants to show the different kinds of view and relationships man and woman can have in a society based on power and identity as represented in the poems “Little Red Cap”, “Thetis” and “Queen Kong”.
In the poem “Thetis”, the narrator is trying to change and explore new identities and relationships. In the beginning of the poem the woman represents a small little bird, protected in the big hands of a man, ‘I shrank myself to the size of a bird in the hand of a man.’ It sets a very peaceful and calm mood. This is similar to the poem “Little Red Cap”, where the girl is first found in the settings of a save, but boring neighbourhood, ‘the houses petered out into playing fields, the factory, allotments kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,(…).’ The setting is made and it gives the benevolent impression of a save environment, ready for a big change. This change is given by a juxtaposition, still in the first stanza, ‘It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.’ The word clapped is an onomatopoeia which gives the reader a sense of danger and an ominous feeling. This is followed by numerous actions and, in the end, the change of an innocent girl to a murderer. This is similar in Thetis, where there is a constant change of identity throughout the poem and a continuous overpowering of the man but, in the end of the poem, ‘(…) and my kisses burned, but the groom wore asbestos. So I changed, I learned, I turned inside out – or that’s how it felt when the child burst out.’ , the woman gets more powerful and has control since she became a mother and is thus very protective. This is emphasised by the rhyme scheme burned, learned, turned.
Both ends of these poems make the reader feel curious about what would happen next in the poem and if this is the final stage and the woman have gotten all their power.
A difference between these two poems is that Little Red Cap can be interpreted as the hunter since she was using her relationship with the wolf as a way to understand and get closer to poetry, ‘As soon as he slept, I crept to the back of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.’ This portrays that Little Red Cap was using him and sets a thoughtful mood. This is different in “Thetis”, where the woman is constantly hunted by the man throughout the poem, ‘(…) till I felt the squeeze of his fist. (…) But I felt my wings clipped by the squint of a crossbow’s eye. (…) I felt the grasp of his strangler’s clasp at my nape. (…) Twelve-bore.’
This gives the reader a haunting and stressed mood as the woman keeps on growing but the man still finds a way to hunt her. In “Little Red Cap”, the narrator was the hunter trying to get the knowledge and inspiration from the man, while in “Thetis”, the woman tried to grow but the man kept hunting her down.
In the poem ‘Little Red Cap’, the narrator, now a 26 year old woman, returning happily from the forest after having killed the man she had been with for around 10 years, ‘Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.’ Here she shows that she can live perfectly and will live happier without a man by her side. Comparing this to “Queen Kong”, where the poem ends as well in the death of the man, Queen Kong can still see herself as someone who can live without a male figure as in the beginning of the poem it looks like she is telling a fun story to her female friends in a coffee shop. Queen Kong is wearing her dead man as an ornament, making you think that it is her who constantly needs him by her side, this changes in the last sentence of the poem, ‘I’m sure that, sometimes, in his silent death, against my massive, breathing lungs, he hears me roar.’ where she states that even when he is dead, she still believes that it is him who needs her by his side. There is an antithesis between the words death and breathing lungs, reminding that it is the man who is dead and that the powerful woman is alive. This gives a very ghoulish and uncomfortable feeling as she is wearing him around her neck.
Little Red Cap and Queen Kong both end as happy woman who actually do not need a man by their side, showing the feminist relationship in the poems. They both were the leaders in the poem and the man were just their guidance to success.
In the poem “Queen Kong”, the narrator is a large, strong and powerful Gorilla, ‘Didn’t he know I could swat his plane from these skies like a gnat?’ This gives the impression that Queen Kong is indestructible and sets an anxious mood.
In the poem “Thetis”, the narrator keeps changing into animals and has supernatural powers, ‘I was wind, I was gas, I was all hot air, trailed clouds for hair.’ This sets a hopeful mood so that the woman might once overpower the man.
They both have a lot of power, even though Thetis always gets overpowered by the man. So although Queen Kong is a very powerful character, she might have deep down known that their relationship was only one-sided and maybe killed the man so that she could get the total power over him, showing a disruptive relationship.
In “Thetis”, the woman is always trying to improve herself and get stronger and stronger without having to depend on a man. This is different to “Queen Kong”, where in the middle of the poem, she falls into a depression since she was all alone because her man left, ‘I lasted a month, I slept for a week, then woke to binge for a fortnight. I didn’t wash.’ This shows that she needed her relationship with her man and could not live without him, she was dependent on him. The short sentences show that she didn’t care and was unable to even express her feelings setting a dispassionate mood.
There is also a similarity between the poems and Carol Ann Duffy’s real life. For example, in the poem “Little Red Cap”, the setting in the beginning of the poem is based on her home town. The relationship with the wolf was based on her relationship with Adrian Henry who she started dating at the age of 16. Overall this poem was inspired by her first relationship, about a young girl getting poetically inspired from her boyfriend. In the end of the poem she kills the wolf, while in her real life she made an end in their relationship after around 10 years.
All these poems by Carol Ann Duffy portray that in a way woman can change the rolls and can also treat man as objects and dolls.