In the poem "If I Was Dead," what is the effect of writing? (Please examine binaries, surprising developments/turn in idea? Imagery/ language use/ sound devices/ word choice & placement/ line...

In the poem "If I Was Dead," what is the effect of writing?

(Please examine binaries, surprising developments/turn in idea? Imagery/ language use/ sound devices/ word choice & placement/ line arrangement that create a particular effect) that helps to highlight the themes of the poem (contrast between loving and loathing) and the poet's view on love?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The paradox of death is that in the loss one often becomes closer to the loved one in spirit with the consolation of memory and the distance that allows for understanding. Carol Ann Duffy's "grudging half-love, half-loathing" poem is written in the Border Ballad style that conjoins British and Scottish traditions. In this poem, Miss Duffy utilizes language to surprising effect in what is designed as a romantic verse.

  • Binary Oppositions¬†

The first stanza is melodious while the second is stark and each line abrupt; third stanza is lyrical and the imagery natural and not unpleasant; however, the fourth presents a much grimmer image of the poet's body, 

if I was dead, and my heart soft mulch for a red, red rose; or burned, and my body a fistful of grit, thrown in the face of the wind;

This is in imitation of the binary of love and loathing, life and death.

  • Surprising developments

After the grim descriptions of death, the poet surprisingly writes that love would raise her from the dead just as the great Christian resurrection of Lazarus occurred. Love would beautify death as suggested by the "red, red rose" and "a listening shell."

Here is the pattern of the verses: three pairs of stanzas in which one is melodious with soft images, and one in stark images that contrast previous ones in tone, as well, with the final stanza affirming passionate love and its power [theme], turn of idea, and repetition of "this."

...hungry for this, and this, and this, your living kiss.
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