Valentine – Duffy. Bring your ‘Mean Time’ tomorrow!

Valentine (notes)
This poem is written in the first person. The speaker appears to be the poet, addressing her lover as “you”. In fact, Carol Ann Duffy wrote Valentine after a radio producer asked her to write an original poem for St. Valentine’s Day.(Valentine was published in 1993, in the collection Mean Time.) But the poem is universal: it could be from any lover to any beloved (for example, there is no indication of the sex of either the “I” or the “you”). The poem, on the surface, is about the giving of an unusual present for St. Valentine’s Day, but really is an exploration of love between two people. This is a good text to write about, because it has a single central image, which is developed throughout the poem: the onion is an extended metaphor for love.
The form of the poem supports its argument (the ideas in it) as Duffy uses single isolated lines to show why she rejects the conventional Valentines: “Not a red rose or a satin heart…Not a cute card or a kissogram.” Why not? Because each has long ceased to be original and has been sent millions of times. The symbolism of roses and hearts is often overlooked, while cards and kissograms may be expensive but mean little. As an artist, Ms. Duffy should be able to think of something more distinctive, and she does.
Duffy in effect lists reasons why the onion is an appropriate symbol of love. First, the conventional romantic symbol of the moon is concealed in it. The moon is supposed to govern women’s passions. The brown skin is like a paper bag, and the shiny pale onion within is like the moon. The “light” which it promises may be both its literal brightness and metaphorical understanding (of love) or enlightenment. The removing of the papery outer layers suggests the “undressing” of those who prepare to make love. There may also be a pun (play on words here) as “dressing” (such as French dressing or salad dressing) is often found with onions in the kitchen.

The onion is like a lover because it makes one cry. The verb “blind” may also suggest the traditional idea of love’s (or Cupid’s) being blind. And the onion reflects a distorted image of anyone who looks at it, as if this reflection were a “wobbling photo” – an image which won’t keep still, as the onion takes time to settle on a surface. The flavour of the onion is persistent, so this taste is like a kiss which lasts, which introduces the idea of faithfulness which will match that of the lovers (“possessive and faithful…for as long as we are”).

Duffy gives the impression that when women cry, for some reason, they often go to the mirror – the lover is blinded with tears and staring in the mirror. Duffy gives the impression that when women cry, for some reason, they often go to the mirror – the lover is blinded with tears and staring in the mirror.The onion is a series of concentric rings, each smaller than the other until one finds a ring the size of a wedding ring (“platinum”, because of the colour). But note the phrase “if you like”: the lover is given the choice. Thus the poem, like a traditional Valentine, contains a proposal of marriage. There is also a hint of a threat in the suggestion that the onion is lethal, as its scent clings “to your knife”. The poet shows how the knife which cuts the onion is marked with its scent, as if ready to punish any betrayal.

Note the form of this poem: Duffy writes colloquially (as if speaking) so single words or phrases work as sentences: “Here…Take it…Lethal”. The ends of lines mark pauses, and most of them have a punctuation mark to show this. The stanza breaks mark longer pauses, so that we see how the poem is to be read aloud. The poem appeals to the senses especially of sight (striking visual images of light, shape and colour), touch (the “fierce kiss”) and smell (the “scent” clinging “to your fingers” and “knife”). The poem uses conventional Valentines as a starting point, before showing how the onion is much more true to the nature of love. The poem seems at first to be rather comical (an onion as a Valentine is surely bizarre) but in fact is a very serious analysis of love.

Structure: Duffy uses structure to show that her speaker/persona who offers the gift of an onion as a representation of their love for their partner, becomes increasingly frustrated by their lover’s rejection of the gift and eventually adopts a threatening attitude.’ Duffy has used FREE VERSE in this poem – there is no obvious rhyme scheme or rhythm.

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Jane Eyre Revision 

Jane Eyre​ is a systematic, episodic novel which is clearly divided into five settings: ​ ​​ ​Gateshead Hall ​​ ​Lowood School ​​ ​Thornfield Hall ​​ ​Morton/Moor House/Marsh End ​​ ​Ferndean ​ ​Being a bildungsroman in its form, it is not surprising these are structured in clear, ​chronological order. ​Q: Remember the full title of the novel? ​A: ​Jane Eyre: ______ __________________________ ​

Task: ​For each setting, put together a revision PowerPoint. ​Ensure your slides/information cover the following (perhaps use them as slide ​headings): ​AO1/2 Characterisation, theme, plot and setting – use literary jargon/critical ​terminology ​AO2 use of language, structure and form ​AO5 different readings / critical interpretations ​AO3 literary, social, historical, cultural and biographical contexts. 

Use specific textual details and quotations from your setting’s section(s) to help you to ​explore all the above successfully. ​If you’re not sure where to start – why not explore the meaning/connotation of the ​name itself? ​ ​

Love & Marriage in Jane Eyre.

-​ ​For Jane: Jane and Rochester are clearly well suited ​but have to be separated in order to experience a time ​of individual character development before they can ​enjoy peace together. ​-​ ​Jane needs to become Rochester’s equal in ​independence and maturity: her physical struggle and ​emotional torment strengthen her character and turn ​her from a naïve girl into a woman. ​-​ ​Rochester commits a selfless act and proves that he ​has seen the error of his former ways in order to ​become a whole person again. He now needs jane as much as she needs him. ​-​ ​Ironically, he is a better man without his sight and his hand than when he was whole and ​Jane loves him more when he is vulnerable than when he was fiercely independent. ​ ​In the Wider Novel  ​-​ ​Aunt Reed’s refusal to keep the promise made to her dead husband. ​-​ ​The scornful description of cousin Georgiana’s ‘advantageous match’ (Ch. 22). ​-​ ​The prospect of a union between Rochester and Blanch Ingram, clearly advantageous ​financially and socially, but not founded on love. ​-​ ​St John Rivers’ love for Rosamund Oliver which is described as possibly a surface attraction: ​‘while something in me…is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply ​impressed with her defects’ (Ch. 32). ​-​ ​The prospect of a marriage of duty and convenience between Jane and St. John, passionately ​rejected by Jane: ‘I scorn your idea of love…I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer’ (Ch. ​34). ​ ​Key Quotes 

 ​”He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am ​sure he is,—I feel akin to him,—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: ​though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and ​nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. […] I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever ​sundered:—and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.” ​-​ ​Seeing Rochester amongst his high-class houseguests, Jane realises that he has more in ​common with her than he does with them. ​ ​”Whenever I marry,” she continued, after a pause which none interrupted, “I am resolved my ​husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall exact ​an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared between me and the shape he sees in his ​mirror.” ​-​ ​Blanche Ingram’s idea of a good marriage is one in which the partners are distinctly different ​and one partner is far superior to the other. As a stunning beauty, she doesn’t want a ​handsome husband, but a hideous one: that way she’ll always get all the attention. ​ -​ ​For Jane: Jane and Rochester are clearly well suited ​but have to be separated in order to experience a time ​of individual character development before they can ​enjoy peace together. ​-​ ​Jane needs to become Rochester’s equal in ​independence and maturity: her physical struggle and ​emotional torment strengthen her character and turn ​her from a naïve girl into a woman. ​-​ ​Rochester commits a selfless act and proves that he ​has seen the error of his former ways in order to ​become a whole person again. He now needs jane as much as she needs him. ​-​ ​Ironically, he is a better man without his sight and his hand than when he was whole and ​Jane loves him more when he is vulnerable than when he was fiercely independent. ​ ​In the Wider Novel 

 ​-​ ​Aunt Reed’s refusal to keep the promise made to her dead husband. ​-​ ​The scornful description of cousin Georgiana’s ‘advantageous match’ (Ch. 22). ​-​ ​The prospect of a union between Rochester and Blanch Ingram, clearly advantageous ​financially and socially, but not founded on love. ​-​ ​St John Rivers’ love for Rosamund Oliver which is described as possibly a surface attraction: ​‘while something in me…is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply ​impressed with her defects’ (Ch. 32). ​-​ ​The prospect of a marriage of duty and convenience between Jane and St. John, passionately ​rejected by Jane: ‘I scorn your idea of love…I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer’ (Ch. ​34). ​ ​Key Quotes 

 ​”He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am ​sure he is,—I feel akin to him,—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: ​though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and ​nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. […] I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever ​sundered:—and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.” ​-​ ​Seeing Rochester amongst his high-class houseguests, Jane realises that he has more in ​common with her than he does with them. ​ ​”Whenever I marry,” she continued, after a pause which none interrupted, “I am resolved my ​husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall exact ​an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared between me and the shape he sees in his ​mirror.” ​-​ ​Blanche Ingram’s idea of a good marriage is one in which the partners are distinctly different ​and one partner is far superior to the other. As a stunning beauty, she doesn’t want a ​handsome husband, but a hideous one: that way she’ll always get all the attention. ​ -​ ​For Jane: Jane and Rochester are clearly well suited ​but have to be separated in order to experience a time ​of individual character development before they can ​enjoy peace together. ​-​ ​Jane needs to become Rochester’s equal in ​independence and maturity: her physical struggle and ​emotional torment strengthen her character and turn ​her from a naïve girl into a woman. ​-​ ​Rochester commits a selfless act and proves that he ​has seen the error of his former ways in order to ​become a whole person again. He now needs jane as much as she needs him. ​-​ ​Ironically, he is a better man without his sight and his hand than when he was whole and ​Jane loves him more when he is vulnerable than when he was fiercely independent. ​ ​In the Wider Novel 

 ​-​ ​Aunt Reed’s refusal to keep the promise made to her dead husband. ​-​ ​The scornful description of cousin Georgiana’s ‘advantageous match’ (Ch. 22). ​-​ ​The prospect of a union between Rochester and Blanch Ingram, clearly advantageous ​financially and socially, but not founded on love. ​-​ ​St John Rivers’ love for Rosamund Oliver which is described as possibly a surface attraction: ​‘while something in me…is acutely sensible to her charms, something else is as deeply ​impressed with her defects’ (Ch. 32). ​-​ ​The prospect of a marriage of duty and convenience between Jane and St. John, passionately ​rejected by Jane: ‘I scorn your idea of love…I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer’ (Ch. ​34). ​ ​Key Quotes 

 ​”He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am ​sure he is,—I feel akin to him,—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: ​though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and ​nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. […] I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever ​sundered:—and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.” ​-​ ​Seeing Rochester amongst his high-class houseguests, Jane realises that he has more in ​common with her than he does with them. ​ ​”Whenever I marry,” she continued, after a pause which none interrupted, “I am resolved my ​husband shall not be a rival, but a foil to me. I will suffer no competitor near the throne; I shall exact ​an undivided homage: his devotions shall not be shared between me and the shape he sees in his ​mirror.” ​-​ ​Blanche Ingram’s idea of a good marriage is one in which the partners are distinctly different ​and one partner is far superior to the other. As a stunning beauty, she doesn’t want a ​handsome husband, but a hideous one: that way she’ll always get all the attention. ​ 

What to do in the exam…

Start by unpacking the question: Don’t rush in. Scrutinise the question. What is it asking you? How many parts are there to the question? Again, what are the key terms to keep in mind?Plan your answer. This may take 5 -10 minutes but it is worth it. Remember, you are expected to produce a cogent and convincing response to the question so work out what points are going to constitute your argument. How are you going to organise them in a series of connecting paragraphs? In a closed book exam, it’s helpful to jot down some abbreviated quotations beforehand so you can ‘dip’ into these as you go along.

Writing your answer. Obviously, any skilfully executed response will have an introduction, development and conclusion. Your introduction is a signpost telling the examiner what they should expect. Engage directly with the key terms and state what your response is going to argue. This provides a confident opening and the examiner will anticipate that you will stay on track. In the development, each paragraph should open with a topic sentence which indicates the aspect of your argument now being dealt with.

Use short, embedded quotations to support your points.

Avoid lapsing into narrative or description. There are no marks for ‘telling the story’.

Be specific. Select knowledge that is relevant to your key terms.

Beware of regurgitating too many teacher resources. Often these ill –digested notes expose poor understanding of the text. Only write down what you understand.

Don’t crow-bar in answers that you’ve memorised. Examiners can detect these! Don’t answer the question you wished you’d been given. Select what is relevant to this question.

Your conclusion should draw your points together without needless repetition. This should be the logical culmination of all your preceding points.

Leave time to proof –read your answer. Crucial errors may be picked up here.