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The Devil's Wife Spring 2009

Page history last edited by Jasmine Jenkins 11 years, 6 months ago

[1]Carol Ann Duffy (1955-)


The Devil’s Wife (1999)


1    DIRT[2]


The Devil was one of the men at work.

Different. Fancied himself. Looked at the girls

in the office as though they were dirt. Didn’t flirt.

Didn’t speak. Was sarcastic and rude if he did.[3]

I’d stare him out, chewing my gum, insolent, dumb.

I’d lie on my bed at home, on fire for him.


I scowled and pouted and sneered. I gave

as good as I got till he asked me out. In his car

he put two fags in his mouth and lit them both.

He bit my breast. His language was foul. He entered me.

We’re the same, he said, That’s it. I swooned in my soul.

We drove to the woods and he made me bury a doll.[4]


I went mad for the sex. I won’t repeat what we did.

We gave up going to work. It was either the woods

or looking at playgrounds, fairgrounds. Coloured lights

in the rain. I’d walk around on my own. He tailed.

I felt like this: Tongue of stone. Two black slates

for eyes. Thumped wound of a mouth. Nobody’s Mam.[5]


2    MEDUSA[6][7]


I flew in my chains over the wood where we’d buried

the doll. I know it was me who was there.

I know I carried the spade.  Know I was covered in mud.

But I cannot remember how or when or precisely where. 


Nobody liked my hair. Nobody liked how I spoke

He held my heart in his fist and he squeezed it dry.[8]

I gave the cameras my Medusa stare.

I heard the judge summing up. I didn’t care.


I was left to rot. I was locked up, double-locked.

I know they chucked the key. It was nowt to me.

I wrote him every day in our private code.

I thought in twelve, fifteen, we’d be out on the open road.


But life, they said, means life. Dying inside.[9]

The Devil was evil, mad, but I was the Devil’s wife

which made me worse. I howled in my cell.

If the Devil was gone then how could this be hell?


3    BIBLE[10]


I said No not me I didn’t I couldn’t I wouldn’t.

Can’t remember no idea not in the room.

Get me a Bible honestly promise you swear.

I never not in a million years it was him.


I said Send me a lawyer a vicar a priest.

Send me a TV crew send me a journalist.

Can’t remember not in the room. Send me

a shrink where’s my MP send him to me.


I said Not fair not right not on not true

not like that. Didn’t see didn’t know didn’t hear.

Maybe this maybe that not sure not certain maybe.

Can’t remember no idea it was him it was him.


Can’t remember no idea not in the room.

No idea can’t remember not in the room.[11]


4    NGHT


In the long fifty-year night,

these are the words that crawl out of the wall:

Suffer. Monster. Burn in Hell.


When morning comes,

I will finally tell.






If I’d been stoned to death

If I’d been hung by the neck

If I’d been shaved and strapped to the Chair

If an injection

If my peroxide head on the block

If my outstretched hands for the chop

If my tongue torn out at the root

If from ear to ear my throat

If a bullet a hammer a knife

If life means life means life


But what did I do to us all, to myself

When I was the Devil’s wife?



  1. The poem "The Devils Wife" is unique due to the point of view of the speaker. The speaker seems to tread the thin line between love and hate as she addresses her relationship with her husband, "the devil" saying,"I scowled and pouted and sneered...until he asked me out." She associates him with negative attributes that she seems to passionately love. The relationship is hereby an obsession with hate and evil as the base. The ending result is shocking however because her love for the devil seems to blind her from seeing that he is the source of all her problems.
  2. In the Poem "The Devil's Wife," one simply gets the idea of degradation of woman. The fact that in the 1st stanza, you are blatantly told that the "Devil" would look at girls at work as dirt. The idea that this is said in the 1st two lines says a lot about how the speaker of the poem feels about men and their treatment of females. The idea that if the "Devil" spoke, he was rather rude and sarcastic, while the speaker who simply stares at him, dumbly. The 1st paragraph completely makes it seem as though man are more dominant and have power over females. It is power that affects the females rather harshly. As the poem goes on, well the stanzas named "dirt," this idea of the "devil" having the power to make the girl do as he wished is shown, a he "made" her bury the doll, and the girl continues to try and satisfy this "devil." Entire section makes it seem as though if a guy has power, he can make the girl a puppet. In the end the speaker which I have assumed to be a she at this point, as the poem points to the speaker being a female mentions that her "tongue of stone," shows that she has no say in this relationship.-- Krishna Vora
  3. The typography of the poem is very intriguing. Duffy separates each section of the poem with a different word that indicates the general theme of the section. The fact that it is split up into five different sections mirrors the structure and presentation of a play, which is fitting as Duffy was also a playwright. Another unique aspect of this poem is the simple language and short words she uses, as well as the careful punctuation. She uses periods frequently to form short sentences which compose the majority of the text. When describing the Devil she writes, “Different. Fancied himself…Didn’t flirt. Didn’t speak. Was sarcastic and rude if he did.” These extremely short sentences, short words, and simple language, all produce a negative tone, and cause the poem to have a rigid feel. These effects are fitting as the poem revolves around the destruction of this woman due to her interactions with a man, or the “devil.” This typography combined with the actual content of the text enable the poem to effectively convey the ruin of this woman. -Marcus Patterson
  4. This stanza is where the implied murder finds its origin. The “(burying of) the doll” could have literally been the speaker and her devil burying a doll, but the fact that this is an act that leads to life in prison would lead the reader to surmise otherwise. With this in mind, the doll could be a corpse. If the doll is indeed human remains, then it would most likely be the corpse of either a child or of a woman because of the connotations behind a doll. Dolls are most commonly children or infantile in appearance, but could be adult females as evidenced by the popular Barbie doll. The corpse, if it is indeed a corpse, could be either of these, as the exploits of the devil and his wife brought then to both their workplace, which most likely had female coworkers, and to carnivals, which could have yielded a dead child. Whether or not the doll is a corpse does not detract from the idea that the burying of the doll is symbolic. The doll is often an image associated with childhood, as previously explored, and when someone buries something, it is often with the intent of getting rid of it. So the devil's wife could have been burying her innocence when she took on the devil as her lover. James Garland
  5. It is odd that the poem is titled "Dirt." It makes the reader first think of dirt as in actual mud and outside, yet once you read the poem you know this reading cannot be correct. Therefore, the reading of the title must be like the dirt that journalists dig up, or the mean girls in high school. The "dirt" is the rumor, the dirty details that only the person who participated will truly know. It's interesting how Duffy uses the allusion of the Devil throughout the poem. In the first line, she describes him as "one of the men at work." The quotation relates to the idea that the devil is a man looking for women, more as objects than people, hoping to get a lay. The Devil represents all the men that women run into in the world, the men that we know we shouldn't have anything to do with, but love them anyway. This idea is evident at the end of the first stanza, when the speaker describes how she "[lays] on [her] bed at home, on fire for him" (line 6). At the end of the poem, however, the speaker realizes that she regrets what she has done, and feels like she has a "Tongue of stone. Two black slates for eyes. Thumped wound of a mouth. Nobody's Mam" (lines 17-18). She has rejected her past self and has become this monster because of her relationship with the Devil. Alyssa Perez
  6. The title of this section, "Medusa," fits incredibly well into the structure of the poem. However, the title, as we find out, represents who the "Devil's WIfe" is. Although the woman speaks ill of the man, she becomes this mythological character, Medusa, when she is with him. It is interesting to think of who the devil's wife may be, and Medusa could very well be a good representative of that. The similarities that the woman has to Medusa is straightforward: "nobody liked [her] hair," and she gave the camera her "Medusa stare." The hair really helps to create a Medusa-like description; Medusa's hair was not actually hair, they were snakes. And Medusa's "stare" turned people into stone. The stare and hair references clearly work in Duffy's favor. Medusa could very well be the devil's wife, and Duffy does an excellent job of persuading the reader. Hunter Berman
  7. This section of the poem really clarified the situation described in the poem. It summed up the events of the poem and really fleshed out the trial metaphor that continues throughout the poem. The speaker is the defendant as well as the victim (or doll - her past). The judge and cameras are her family, friends and peers. The speaker may also be her own judge. Although no verdict is explicitly written, the speaker feels responsible and places no blame on her love, obsession, and influence (the devil). The sense of eternal torture and imprisonment set up in the final stanza of this section persists throughout the following stanzas. - Jasmine Jenkins
  8. Carol Ann Duffy writes that "He held my heart in his first and squeezed it dry" to portray the stranglehold that the devil has on the wife. We cannot tell if the woman in this poem is actually married to the devil or is just possessed by the devil and therefore assumes a role as his wife. She then "gave the cameras [her] Medusa stare." Medusa is an ancient Greek monster that turned everyone who looked into her eyes into stone. This along with her hearing "the judge summing up" her sentence shows her possession by the devil and seamless disregard for consequences blinded by her love. She ends this stanza saying "I didn't care." -Michael Solomon
  9. Life is first used to describe the act of living. To go though time doing one thing or another, making decisions as we go. The second life is a summation of a person’s time on earth. It is stating that life is a finality. A life can only go for so long, we can only make decisions while our bodies are able to carry them out. It is saying that life is the act of dying, which is a combination of all of our other actions. -Sam Frenkel
  10. In this part of the poem, the speaker is expressing her blamelessness for some action or situation. The repetition of the word "not" and the lack of punctuation set the mood of the section. The diction of this section also leads one to believe it is a plea. Her association with the "Devil" or an evil partner has brought negative consequences. The speaker mentions that her partner is evil, but the fact that she is his wife makes her look worse. This view of the speaker raises many implications about women in society. - Kendrick Daniel
  11. Duffy does well to create the sense of a panicked stream of consciousness by not including punctuation in section 3. The continuous sentence makes it seem like one thought after another. The repetition of, “Can’t remember,” “No idea,” and “Not in the room,” recreates the speaker’s panic and confusion. She is stuck on the fact that she cannot remember and the various ideas all in one sentence suggest that her mind is racing and jumping from thought to thought. Greg Irons

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