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Duffy - Never Go Back
Terms in this set (22)
What is this poem about?
This poem depicts the feelings and emotions of a persona that has returned to their hometown in order to clean up a house that they once lived in. Throughout the poem, it seems clear that they have moved on from this place and that as a result they no longer belong or feel at home there. Throughout the poem, the house that they once shared appears to be a metaphor for decay and destruction of the once happy marriage.
the poem enforces the idea that you cannot return to the past as the passage of time means that people and places are constantly changing, evoking imagery of disease and decay. the title offers a solution to this for the persona - they should ever again return to this dull, unhappy existence.
'living dead drink all day'
plosive sounds to reinforce the futility of the pursuit of happiness at the bottom of a glass of alcohol. opening line uses a metaphor to depict the people in the pub as zombified creatures who have little purpose in their lives and the persona's recognition of this enforces the belief that she is no longer the person she was when she lived here, and can no longer remain.
the juxtaposition of the 'living dead' may suggest that the people actually do have a life though it is unexciting and filled with a sense of decay.
there seems to be a sense of judgement from the persona regarding what they do in their everyday lives.
as they are nameless and faceless, this imagery of the 'living dead' could be reflective of any bar in town where people take refuge from their dull lives and alcoholics go to maintain their addiction.
this is a very depressing opening line that fits the theme depicted in the rest of the poem.
'your ghost buys a round for the parched, old faces of the past'
this presents the idea that upon her return she is reminded of her old life and that is almost haunts her.
idea that she has moved on from her former life and the person that she used to be - 'of the past'
'never return, to the place where you left time pining till it died'
reminds herself to never return to this haunting, miserable place that is a relic of her former life. demonstrates the idea that when she did live here, she remained in this dull existence for far too long and the passage of time harmed not only her relationship but her identity.
'outside, the streets tear litter in their bare hands'
demonstrates idea that the atmosphere surrounding her in this place that she has outgrown reflects the sense of unhappiness and decay that she felt while living there. this personifies the streets with a sense of deterioration - the 'litter' pollutes and ruins them and they respond by 'tearing it' - also reflects the idea that this place is downtrodden and dirty and that she should never return to such a place - also implies the people living there have a commonplace sense of hopelessness and have given up trying to maintain this area - the negativity of life here is clearly depicted and it seems clear why the persona's former life was filled with unhappiness
suggests that the streets are wringing their hands in despair
a dirty, downtrodden, hopeless area
'a tired wind whistles through the blackened stumps of houses'
the wind is even 'tired', and 'whistles around', almost creating an eerie atmosphere. pathetic fallacy - even the weather appears to recognise the dull surroundings and is 'tired' as a result of this
'blackened stumps' reinforces atmosphere of decay and destruction. it seems that nobody could live an exciting, positive life here as the atmosphere of death that is depicted throughout the poem suggests that nothing/nobody could grow - the persona had to leave to grow as a person and develop her true identity
'god, this is an awful place says the friend, the alcoholic, whose head is a negative of itself'
even the people still living there have a sense of contempt for their surroundings. friend is identified as 'the alcoholic' - she uses drinking to cope with this negative existence, seems to epitomise the life that the persona would have had if she didn't leave.
'so drink up. shut up, then get them in again. again. and never go back'
persona requires a sense of routine to cope with time here.
constantly reminding herself that she will 'never go back' -recognises need to escape from this terrible, decaying place
'the house where one of the brides has cancer'
while 'brides' connotes youth and hopelessness, this is tainted by the unhappiness of the disease that they are going through. reinforces idea that nobody could live a truly happy, prospering life in this place.
the enjambment of this also reinforces the negativity surrounding this line and the poem as a whole. the imagery of the woman's disease acts as an identifying factor for her entire house and adds to the sense of deterioration that is built up throughout the poem.
'nursing its growth and cracks, each groan and crack accusing you as you climb the stairs'
deterioration and decay
'your loved body on blurred air with the simple power of loss'
the 'loss' of their former life and identity palpable in this stanza
'all the lies told here, and all the cries of love,suddenly swarm in the room, sting you, disappear'
the persona is haunted by the memories of her past. depicts the view that though her former relationship had aspects of 'love', it was largely unhappy and as a result she felt the need to escape from this house of deterioration. her former existence still 'stings' her as she is reminded of it upon her return to the house. epitomises idea that she no longer belongs here and must escape. the 'lies' demonstrate that she did not have a healthy, trusting relationship, though that it rotted and deteriorated like its surroundings.
theme of personification
the theme of personification is depicted throughout the poem.
'streets tear litter'
'house has cancer'
all negative, decaying imagery to suggest that the persona is surrounded by an atmosphere of deterioration, the very places claim her and have lives of their own. this unpleasant imagery draw on disease and loss, as well as mirroring the persona's emotions.
'you shouldn't be here'
recognises that she no longer belongs or fits in there and must soon leave. she feels that she should not have returned as she simply feels trapped and surrounded by the sheer unhappiness and unpleasantness depicted by her surroundings.
'you follow your shadow through the house'
a shadow of her former self
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