Theme Overview: Mean Time

Summer Pearce
Note by Summer Pearce, updated more than 1 year ago
Summer Pearce
Created by Summer Pearce over 4 years ago


A-Level (Year 1) (Year 1) English Language and Literature (Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy) Note on Theme Overview: Mean Time, created by Summer Pearce on 01/11/2017.

Resource summary

Page 1


Main poems: Litany - presents the relationship between a mother and daughter, describes punishment ("the taste of soap") Before You Were Mine - describes relationship between parent and child, portrays feelings of guilt and sadness ("whose small bites on your neck sweetheart?") First Love - uses memory to portray theme positively ("unseen flowers suddenly pierce and sweeten the air") Mean Time - describes the negative aspects of a relationship, regret and remorse are most present tones ("mourning our love", "endless nights"), regular stanzas could represent a steady journey through life or thought process. The Cliché Kid - describes a relationship with the narrator's parents, swapped gender roles and swapping cliches ("fresh baked grass," "new mown bread"). Irregular rhyme pattern, rhyme within stanzas, makes for uneasy reading. Describes relationship with 'first love' - "don't make me pine for that first love". Close - describes intimate meeting between two people ("take each other to bits to stare at our heart), the use of the word 'our' throughout the poem implies the lovers are one, and they have ownership over each other. Valentine Compare:The Cliché Kid, Before You Were Mine and Litany all describe relationships with parents, not romantic ones.Contrast:Although Mean Time and First Love both describe the loss of a relationship, Mean Time portrays this negatively, whilst First Love remembers the experience in a more calm and positive way.

Page 2

Breakdown of Relationships

Main poems: Small Female Skull - ""I see the scar where I fell for sheer love down treacherous stairs, and read that shattering day like Braille." - breakdown of relationship is a memory, Duffy remembers the damage it did The Cliche Kid - implies Duffy has been dumped? - "don't make me pine for that first love" The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team - "my stale wife", stale refers to something that is decaying, perhaps their relationship is rotting? The persona also doesn't mention his wife's name, but he does say "my name was in red on Lucille Green's jotter" - is Lucille Green more important than his wife? First Love - memory of first love, feels comfortable to remember ("I speak your name after a silence of years") Close Nostalgia Mean Time - talks about the aftermath of a break up, "there are words I never would have said nor heard you say" refers to an argument that perhaps caused the break up, narrator wants to rewind time to be with their lover again. Before You Were Mine - family based relationship, child's perspective, talking about her mother's life before she was born. ("I'm ten years away from the corner you laugh on"), child expresses guilt for taking away her mother's past life from her, as she is creating the gap between her mother's past and her present. Compare:Both The Cliché Kid and Small Female Skull use cliché and try to avoid them.Contrast: The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team is different from the other poems, as the relationship is already broken, rather than in the process of breaking. Close talks about a relationship that is forming, whereas First Love talks about a relationship that has long since passed. Before You Were Mine and Mean Time both describe different types of relationships.

Page 3

Childhood/Transition to Adulthood

Main poems: Stafford Afternoons - looking back on a traumatic memory from childhood, "where children scattered and shrieked, and time fell from the sky like a red ball" - past tense shows it is a memory Before You Were Mine - describes how a person can change over time, "I'm ten years away", lot of difference 10 years can make, 10 years away from memories or persona? The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team - reminiscing childhood, nostalgic, "I want it back," direct address, short and infantile language, lots of lists and enjambment Beachcomber - looking back on their childhood, trying to remember, "you remember that cardigan", memory comes in small bits The Cliché Kid - reminisces about childhood, "the old schoolroom empty", "the sound of Ma and her pals", doesn't describe happy memories Litany - memory from childhood, "I learnt at my mother's knee", learning 'code' and then from her mother's discipline Close - "two childhoods stand in the corner of the bedroom", shows that the people we once were have an influence over our present lives. Compare: The Cliché Kid and Stafford Afternoons both link to the theme of the passing of time because they use the child's perspective. Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team and Beachcomber both represent memory. The persona in Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team want to get back to popular culture of the past, whilst Beachcomber discusses memory of childhood. The Cliché Kid and Before You Were Mine both describe relationships with parents. Contrast: Before You Were Mine is unlike the other poems, because the childhood described is not that of the narrator/persona. Close, Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team and Beachcomber are different to the other poems as they talk about childhood in comparison to the present.

Page 4

Avoiding Cliche

Main poems: Litany - avoidance of cliché is not obvious, in a church service, a litany is a call and response between the pastor and congregation, in this poem, it is the call and response of the apologies to the women after Duffy swears. Small Female Skull - typical of Duffy to take a common idea and present it as extraordinary - 'head in my hands' - explores abstract concept, cliché for women to cry in a bathroom, but cliché is avoided as the usual meaning for 'head in my hands' is not used. The Cliché Kid - switches typical gender roles ("father's ballgown"), explores Duffy's sexuality Nostalgia - men aren't typically associated with displaying emotion, in this poem "they pined, wept, grown men." - challenges gender stereotype by presenting the mercenaries as vulnerable. Valentine - typically Valentine's Day and love are associated with red hearts, flowers and chocolates, but Duffy links these associations to the symbolism of an onion, which is an untypical comparison. Compare: The Cliché Kid and Valentine twist and add humour to the common cliché. Litany and The Cliché Kid avoid cliché by referring to childhood. Contrast: Litany and Small Female Skull are both abstract poems, exploring personal development, however this common theme is more evident in Small Female Skull.

Page 5


Main poems: Close First Love - remembers first relationship, ("all day I will glimpse it"), a new sense is introduced towards the end of the poem, ("unseen flowers suddenly pierce and sweeten the air") Mean Time Beachcomber - remembering the past fondly ("the child, / not in sepia, / lives"), persona has difficulty recalling the memory. Nostalgia - looks at defining nostalgia ("sweet pain in the heart," "it was given a name"), refers to the medical history of nostalgia. The last stanza has an extra line, which could mean that it gets better at the end, but it's not the same. Never Go Back Before You Were Mine - poem describes nostalgia towards her mother's past life, and somewhat, some of her childhood ("the decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one, eh?"). Not typical as the nostalgia is not personal to the narrator, but typical because it describes feelings that are universal to a wide range of people. Litany The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team - the persona is looking back on his childhood, and describing how good it was. However, this poem is untypical because it negatively portrays his present life. Compare: Before You Were Mine and Close both look at the past wistfully and are about enjoying memories, despite a small tone of sadness. Both Mean Time and First Love are about the end of a relationship, however First Love is more content with its end. Contrast:Both The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team and Nostalgia look at the feeling of nostalgia, but The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team looks at one person's experience of it, whereas Nostalgia portrays a more universal one.

Page 6

Passing of Time

Main poems: Nostalgia - feeling of wanting to go back to a place in the past, links to passing of time because it describes how things can change ("the same bell chiming the hour on the clock and everything changed"). The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team - persona's life has changed as they have grown up, and they don't like it, "I want it back" First Love - shows difficulty remembering "clench my eyes till the pictures return" Before You Were Mine Mean Time Never Go Back Stafford Afternoons Beachcomber

Page 7

Other themes

loss/grief everyday life/family fantasy writing from an outsider's POV memory the past love/fondness direct address mean time (time robs us of things) regret journey (emotional journey of experiencing events with Duffy) open possibility (ambiguity) disorientation personal/intimate disclosure disconnection humour uncertainty/openness of meaning popular culture specific cultural references abstract ideas disclosing uncomfortable ideas literal/metaphorical mix 'simple words but in a complicated way'

'construction of self' 'representation of reality 'gender issues' 'different forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality' Source

'explores everyday experience and rich fantasy life' 'dramatising childhood, adolescence and adulthood' 'moments of consolation through love, memory and language' Source

Page 8

A Long List

These themes are present in various poems throughout Carol Ann Duffy's collection of poetry, Mean Time; passing of time loss/grief everyday life family fantasy writing from an outsider's point of view memory the past love/fondness nostalgia direct address construction of self representation of reality gender issues different forms of alienation, oppression and social inequality mean time (time robs us of things) dramatising childhood, adolescence and adulthood moments of consolation through love, memory and language regret journey (emotional, Duffy's readers experience things with her) open possibility (ambiguity) disorientation personal/intimate disclosure disconnection humour

Page 9

The Everyday

Before You Were Mine - Mother's everyday life now is very different to what is used to be as a teenager, imagery used to make the past seem magical. Nostalgia - the everyday depresses people, as they miss the everyday of the past Small Female Skull - reflection over everyday life, explores phrase 'head in hands' that is considered normal and everyday Never Go Back - everyday life is disturbing; plagued by alcoholism and prostitution, broken and dysfunctional The Cliche Kid - painful for narrator; memories hurt Beachcomber - cannot remember the past, their memories of the everyday are gone

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