1.1 Love: Poem ends on a warning that love can be "lethal" and life threatening, forcing the reader to understand the
fact that real love based on honesty and truthfulness can be painful and destructive as well as fulfilling and
1.2 Negative aspects of conventional relationship's: Suggests that ultimately such
relationships can often be restrictive to the individual, while a love which is free from such
constraints is an ideal worth pursuing.
1.2.1 This, combined with the theme of love as being dangerous, makes for an
unsettling tone to the poem. However, there is a sense that this is a more
genuine and useful present, which suggests a practical love. The offer of a
wedding-ring, in an offhand manner, also reinforces the idea that truthful
love is the better sort.
2 Subject Matter
2.1 Valentine describes a gift for a lover, such as you would give
on Valentine’s Day. It is a rather unusual present – an onion.
The poem explains why it is a powerful gift of love, much more
than the clichéd roses or box of chocolates. The onion
becomes a metaphor for love, and so the poem is about love
as well as Valentine gifts.
3 Form and Strucutre
3.1 The poem is written in free verse. Each stanza is very short, and several are only
one line long. This form echoes the form of an onion itself, and the layers that go
to make it up. There is a sense in which Valentine is within the tradition of list
poems, as the speaker tells you what the onion is, and then what it is like. The
poem is a first person narrative, in the form of a direct address to "you". We don’t
know who the "you" is, but perhaps, as it’s the kind of person who would normally
receive a "cute card" it’s a woman.
4.1 The only alliteration in the poem is in the "cute card" and the "red rose" – the clichéd Valentines. Is Duffy
implying something about the over use of alliteration in love poems? Although there is no rhyme in the
poem, there are some places where repeated structures mean that words are repeated, echoing each other.
This represents both their ongoing love and the layers of the onion.
5.1 The narrator of the poem dismisses
clichéd ideas of love with the two single
line stanzas that begin with the word
"not". There is an attitude in the poem that
normal Valentines are not as honest as
this one. The two single line stanzas in the
middle of the poem contrast the idea of
truthfulness with clichéd cards or
kissograms. It is also more cynical about
love: rather than promising to last forever,
this Valentine will merely last as long as
the two of them are possessive and
faithful, like the onion. This is an unusual
attitude for a love poem.