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Salome': Main Themes

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The themes first introduced are predominantly modern consisting of promiscuity and infidelity. The theme of feminism is first introduced towards the end of the piece when it becomes evident to the reader how much power Salome has over her male counterpart Duffy’s reference to the tale of John the Baptist shows her modernising of the tale as it is subverted to suggest that Salome has had a one night stand, thus showing the theme of promiscuity. The story reverts to the original towards the end when John’s head is found to be on a platter as this is the occurrence that takes place in the original story.

The fact that the head is now in her bed shows a modern take on this occurrence. This shows that her actions are an attempt at female empowerment instead of showing her personal vendetta. The way that she is unable to remember that the man’s name shows that he is representative of the wider male population. “Ive done it before, I’ll do it again” this shows that Salome has partaken in pre-marital sex numerous times and has not been reprimanded for this action; this subverts the expectations of this time period. The use of “ain’t life a bitch” shows that she is disregarding this event and makes it appear inconsequential.

Salome is metaphorically murdering the man by stealing his masculinity, this can be seen as subverted misogyny because it is typically the woman who is used during a one night-stand, and yet during this poem it is the man who is reduced because of it. A one-night stand typically involved a man using a woman purely for her body, however in this version of events the fact that Salome has the ability to seek out this anonymous man and murder him shows her self-assured power and her ability to subdue him and carry out her own will on him without the interference from anyone else.

Persona: Her nonchalant attitude towards having killed the man makes her appear to be a hardened or cold murderer Her admission that “ive done it before and I’ll doubtless do it again” reaction to finding a man in her bad shows her lack of concern about the fact that he is anonymous, this could be a reference to her ideas that all men are the same and could be a reference towards Duffy’s personal beliefs Her ability to dance and then be given anything she desires, event the death of another, could be seen as being a warning to society created by Duffy “Good looking, of course” the embedded clause “of course” shows that she believes she is only worth of the most attractive men, her total reliance on physical features in men shows that she does not hold any emotional attachment to the man and that her one night stands are a fairly common occurrence “Obviously knew how to flatter” shows that she has clearly experienced seduction in the past and this shows that she has now become aware of her weakness and wishes to combat it in order to have more power herself and to be less under the control of her male counterparts In the original story Salome is from a rich upper class and this translates to this poem as the whole story is written in first person (i) which shows that she believes it all revolves around her. Her having a maid cements this belief. The fact that the maid has a regional “patter” or accent contrast with the civilised speech with which Salome narrates her situation and her surroundings.

The use of colloquialisms to refer to her vices “booze drugs and sex” shows that she is very familiar with these At the end of the third stanza, she utilises the third person to refer to herself and talk of how the man has fallen for her seduction and therefore as a result he has effectively signed his own death warrant A mirror is frequently used to assess your self-image and this is true within this poem because Salome looks into the mirror to see her self-confidence and perhaps to assess her own personality and what she has become. The way that Salome flings open the sheets to reveal the head appears to be as if she is proud of her creation and is revealing it with a sense of pride and victory Style and Structure: 1.

Duffy successfully creates dark humour within this poem, this is done through the use of assonance such as with “pewter” and “peter” which have similar vowel sounds and therefore produces a type of rhyme however it does not fully fit and therefore reflects the disjointed tone that is evident within Salome herself and reflects her hung-over stream of consciousness. Full rhymes are also utilised in this piece such as “patter” and “batter” which links these two words together, one meaning the way by which you talk and the other being a form of slang, thus showing that her way of talking can be regional in manner. This usage of slang to portray the speech of

Salome suggests that Duffy is attempting to modernise this ancient story and to make it more applicable to modern attitudes. The use of enjambment in the opening lines causes a halting pace in the piece which is a reflection of her distorted state of mind that has resulted from alcohol intoxication and a deficiency in sleep, this pace picks up towards the end of the piece when she begins to gain greater consciousness and becomes more aware of her surroundings. The tone remains somewhat detached and aloof throughout which suggests that she has an elevated view of herself and believes that others are not worthy of her company or even her attention, the mood of the piece reflects this attitude and even when she discovers “his head on a platter” she remains detached.

However, she shows a degree of requite because she accepts that “ain’t life a bitch”, this implies that she has been hurt physically or mentally in the past and now she is able to return the unsavoury favour on another, and act that she draws a disconcerting degree of satisfaction from. 2. The use of brackets in line 2 By using parentheses, it somewhat detaches the content from the rest of the poem, therefore it can be seen as an insight into the thoughts of the person who is talking. This also makes all of the promises regarding self-reformation redundant because she has already given in. Alternatively it can be seen as being somewhat of an afterthought. The ellipses on lines 11 and 12

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The use of ellipses in these lines implies that there is a pause taking place, this can be explained by Salome pausing to reminisce or to think about something. By encouraging the reader to also pause with the poet it makes the reader try and assume the viewpoint of Salome. The pause can also be perceived as being Salome’s attempts to compose her thoughts in her somewhat incomprehensible state. The caesura on line 14 The use of the caesura shows that Salome has a brief pause before continuing with her monologue. The usage of this in the context “Strange. What was his name? ” shows that she is most likely using the time to try and think about his name and what it was.

Her confusion and lack of memory in this context suggests that it is information that is missing due to her drunken stupor the night before. Her memory of his lips as being “colder than pewter” and yet she is unable to remember her name shows a subversion in the normal way by which a woman should interact with others. The rhythm of the lines describing the maid’s actions in lines 18-21 My interpretation of these lines is that Salome perceives all of this in a somewhat childish light and this explains the rhyming language. As such, it shows that Salome does not necessarily perceive the maid as being equal to her or at the same status as herself, thus showing a very aloof viewpoint. The use of parenthetical hyphens on the penultimate line.

The use of these hyphens on this line presents a point where an objective or factual piece of information could potentially be inserted; the fact that this has been replaced by “and aint life a bitch” shows the sarcastic nature of Salome and the fact that she uses language that is completely inappropriate to the seriousness of what has happened, an effective murder. The blazee shows that she feels aloof and above the law because she is not governed by the same morals and laws as others. This common idiom to show the unfairness of life also shows her menacing self-satisfaction with what she has done. Language “Ive done it before and I’ll doubtless do it again” the temporal adverbs present us with the persona of a relentless speaker who has accepted her position as a sexually promiscuous woman or potentially as a woman who has accepted her position in the cycle.

The themes of eroticism and violence permeate throughout the poem and are caused by Salome’s language and the imagery regarding the head on the platter The use of parentheses, half-rhymes (sooner or later) and the chains of subordinate clauses helps to convey the sleepy drawl of someone who has just woken up, this also helps us to imagine the upper class accent that she is speaking with In the final stanza, the quote “his head on a platter” makes a direct reference to the biblical story. This also contradicts the typical belief whereby sexually promiscuous women are punished, instead, Salome appears to be exempt from this rule as she is able to carry out her sexual activities and not fear any retribution The line “ain’t life a bitch” shows that she is cold and uncaring about others.

This could be seen as her having been treated unfairly in the past and now she is returning the unsavoury favour on others now that she is in the position to do so The reference to the horses head scene in The Godfathers shows that she is trying to be shocking and cements the belief that it is an act of revenge and therefore has an instigating factor. At the end of stanza one and the start of stanza two, the list of proper nouns dehumanizes the victims. The question mark after them each shows a detached and uncaring viewpoint because she does not care about the individuals. This detached viewpoint allows her to use them solely for the purpose of her own personal gratification.

This also proves to the audience that Salome is the one who has all of the control over the others because she is able to put the men into a position of subservience The speaker of the poem, Salome, requires much less reason to kill compared to Salome in the original story who at least has a vaguely understandable motive for murder The idea that she is mentally unstable is common as shown repeatedly by the way that the sentences appear to stop halfway through the point that is being conveyed. This is also shown by the way that Salome trivializes occurrences such as murder The reference to the head as being like pewter shows that it has become cold, stiff and lifeless. In addition to this, the metal is typically grey which is true to the head that Salome is lying next to, the final interpretation is that she has no emotional bond with the head as shown by it being cold and metallic.

This can also be seen as being a contrast between the heat and desire of the night before compared to the coldness of the morning after The fact that she has killed a man who is normally perceived as being a good man (a disciple) and because she has carried out this deed on him as well implies that she shows no restraint and can kill anyone The fact that the men knew “how to flatter” shows that they are not entirely guilt-free and innocent because they have attempted to seduce her The fact that she returns to her regular routine towards the end of the poem shows that this is a common occurrence but also that her life is very dull and she relies on these interactions with men to improve herquality of life There are several references to an unclean lifestyle in the novel however these can be a cliche reference to her nightly activities The reference to John the Baptist contrasts strongly with the uncleanness of Salome and can be seen as a warped way of her being cleansed

The reverse-anthropomorphism “blighter” to refer to the man shows that men are merely animalistic in comparison to the relative civility of the woman “Like a lamb to the slaughter” is a biblical reference because it is a silent and witless creature that is unable to escape their fate. This reference in relation to the man shows that he is an animal and also that he is pathetic and helpless to escape. The final quatrain (four lines) presents Salome as becoming much more ordered, thus making her appear to be far more sinister than previously seen. In this stanza we also finally see the real truth about the action that she has done, her coldness and her detachedness further shows this and presents the idea that she is perhaps a psychopath because she is able to detach herself from the crime.

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Salome’: Main Themes. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
“Salome’: Main Themes.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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Salome’: Main Themes [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from:
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