The Devil's Wife Poem Analysis

The World’s Wife is a collection of poetry that successfully challenges society’s preconceptions of what it means to be a woman. While the female voice is often silenced, Duffy focuses on the women who were in the midst of male-centric stories in Biblical, mythological and fairytale narratives. Some may argue that the expectations of women are completely subverted in poems such as The Devil’s Wife, in which the maternal and nurturing image of a woman is replaced by the disturbing portrayal of the infamous child serial killer Myra Hindley. Alternatively, some feminine qualities are also explored in this poem, such as a woman’s dependence on men, as demonstrated by Hindley’s twisted, passionate love for Ian Brady.

The traditional expectation
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The plosive consonants create a sense of callousness in the line “He bit my breast” as the sound is harsh and aggressive, juxtaposing the nurturing role of a woman. Breasts are also symbolic of the motherly love women feel for infants and the fact that Brady bites the breasts demonstrates a rejection of the persona and foreshadows the later rejection of motherhood when The Devil’s Wife later kills the children. Similarly, in Queen Herod, Duffy uses breast imagery when “the black Queen scooped out [Queen Herod’s] breast, the left, guiding it down to the infant’s mouth.” therefore the breast is used in its natural nurturing function. However the maternal role is later taken to the extreme when Queen Herod ruthlessly massacres the innocents in order to protect her own daughter. In contrast, The Devil’s Wife refers to herself as “Nobody’s Mam” which confirms her rejection of motherhood, thus explicitly subverting this expectation. The the use of colloquial dialect creates a sense of the credible voice of Hindley and emphasises the chilling harshness of this …show more content…
Due to the fact that women are perceived to be maternal and caring, the news of Hindley’s acts shocked society and her actions were said to be more horrific than the Devil’s because of this which is evident in the line “but I was the Devil’s wife which made me worse.” Hindley has acted outside of her gender role by killing children which could have been why the media’s backlash towards Hindley was greater. In this line, The Devil’s wife seems to be in a transitional period, realising the horror of her own crimes and the personal pronoun connotes that she has been reflecting on her own actions. Perhaps Duffy is trying to demonstrate the importance of a woman’s separation from men to find her own identity as it was only after she was separated from The Devil that The Devil’s Wife managed to be aware of her

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