What are some examples of misandry shown in Little Red Cap by Carol Ann Duffy?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Misandry is best defined as an extreme dislike or hatred of men, usually for a good reason, and it is a fitting word to consider in Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Little Red Cap." As payalkhullar's answer suggests, this poem is a non-fairy tale version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, though of course the man in this poem is actually the wolf who consumes the young girl. So, the first unmistakable example of misandry in this poem is the presentation of the man as a wolf, a creature we know as carnivorous, wily, and powerful. Her depiction of her former lover as a predator certainly demonstrates her hatred of him. 

It must be acknowledged that the sixteen-year-old speaker of the poem is unwittingly complicit in what turns out to be a deadly relationship because this wolf is everything a young, inexperienced girl thinks she is looking for in a potential lover. 

He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud
In his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw
Red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
He had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me
Sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink....

He appears so civilized--reading poetry, consuming wine--and she is attracted to him. In fact, she makes "quite sure" that he sees her. The fact that she does not recognize the truth of who she is following does not excuse her from her role in this relationship. However, and it is a gigantic however, it is clear that this wolf in the guise of a civilized man takes awful advantage of this innocent girl. 

The poem is written from the perspective of time, and we learn from her retrospection that he was more wolf than man. She knew he was going to take her far from home, 

...deep into the woods
Away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
Lit by the eyes of owls.

What she did not know is that he was going to make her crawl behind him,

My stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
Snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

But got there, wolf’s lair, better beware.

This imagery of being "ripped" and "snagged" is coupled early on with the idea of "murder." It is a violent beginning, and it can only be read as her growing hatred of him.

Their coupling is also violent and "thrashing," and it is clear that the girl almost immediately feels as if she has been consumed. She is the white dove (symbolic of innocence) which the wolf devours in one satisfying bite. This, too, is an example of misandry, the idea that she was no longer her own person but simply something for the man/wolf to consume. 

The girl stays with him, virtually trapped in his lair, for ten miserable years, years in which she suggests nothing in her life gets better. One day she picks up an axe and does a little practicing before committing the grandest act of hatred in the poem: 

I took an axe to the wolf

As he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat....

This is a particularly telling description, as she begins her revenge with his most offending part, the part she hates the most, and ends with his devouring mouth and unctuous voice. This powerful blow is a clear indication of her mighty hatred for this man. When he is dead, she says: 

Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone

She did not let her hatred of this man kill her. 

While this poem is probably based on a relationship Duffy had with a much older man whom she later came to despise, the poem can stand on its own as a work which exemplifies misandry. 

Sources:
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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Carol Ann Duffy’s Little Red Cap sets a modern-day, feminist twist to the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. In Little Red Cap, the man does not protect the girl from the wolf, but is himself the wolf. The wolf, which represents a man, is shown to be a very bad and wicked character. He takes from the girl her child-like innocence, purity and virginity for his pleasure and excitement. He fools her by buying her drinks and reading verse. Just like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, he deceives her into a trap. She, however, realises later that the wolf destroyed her in the name of love. All these elements in the poem portray hatred and scorn towards men. The young girl, who has now become a woman, brutally kills the man with an axe and becomes free again. Misandry shown in this poem as well as in several other poems of Duffy might be interpreted to have stemmed from her personal experience with an unfaithful, unloving man. Her hatred towards the opposite sex is reflected by her depiction of the man as a bad wolf and a predator.  

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