Overall, both authors convey female sexuality in differentlights; Duffy celebrates female sexuality in her poems as a means of liberatingwomen whilst Adichie explores the repression of female sexuality in order tosubtly address the violation of African women in some societies. However, there is also a gentle rhythmic tone ” a softerrhyme…echo” which highlight the romantic and gentle side of the protagonistand the overall poem. This is in contrast to the rough, angry and violentlanguage and imagery used in other poems (including Salome, Mrs Beast andLittle Red Cap).
is sacred. Perhaps the main protagonist has a stronger senseof romantic desire than sexual desire, creating a contrast between sensualityand sexuality. She repeatedly talks about “the bed”, indicating shehad “Romance and drama” with her lover. ‘Romance’ is capitalised,emphasising the importance of their love. Anne uses heavenly imagery to expressher romantic feelings. “My living laughing love” uses alliteration,indicating Anne’s lover meant the ‘world’ to her. The verb ‘laughing’ suggestshe was full of life. The reference of the senses “touch, scent andtaste” creates a sense of eroticism which reinforces Anne’s romanticfeelings.
Duffy uses poetic techniques to present Anne’s love: “a verbdancing in the centre of a noun” – a verb is an action word whichresembles “touch” and a “noun” is a thing which could be ametaphor for Anne’s body- specifically her vagina.”Anne Hathaway” expresses the protagonist’s strongfeelings of love and sexuality through language and imagery. Through the use ofdramatic monologue, we can establish Anne’s experiences of sexuality andsensuality.
The poem begins with”the bed”, establishing the setting of the poem. It is repeated fourtimes in the poem- suggesting that the bed is important and a metaphor forAnne’s love “My lover” further implying “the bed” The fact that she’ll “do it again” suggests shefeels confident carrying out and speaking about stereotypically male behavioursuch as having sex. This is in contrast to Kambili who’s sexual feelings anddesires are repressed; Kambili is unable to speak freely about her feelings forFather Amadi- she knows it’s wrong and as a result this represses her. Similarly, “Salome”, by Duffy uses sexual languageand imagery to explore female sexuality. In the context of a dramaticmonologue, the reader can infer what Salome has done from the first line”I’d done it before” The contraction “I’d” uses modern,colloquial language and the pronoun “it” implies sexual activity. Thepast tense of “I’d indicates a pattern of behaviour suggesting ‘Salome’frequently has sexual intercourse, emphasizing her sleazy masculine behaviour.
From the first line Duffy presents ‘Salome’ as a sexual woman who is”doubtless” she’ll “do it again”; the adverb”doubtless” suggests she is certain to have sexual intercourse again,while the use of the brackets create an aside, (used in drama and theatre),which is spoken quietly and heard by the readers, but not by anyone else. Inthis case, the other person could be her lover “Peter? Simon? Andrew?John?” Salome fails to recall her lover’s name- reinforcing her sleazy andimmoral masculine behaviour. Her masculine activities are also excessive-“cut out the booze and the fags and the sex” the repetition of theconjunction “and” creates a list form, and the colloquial terms used(booze, fags and sex) highlight the modern, masculine image she projects of herself.This contrasts the good, traditional woman Mama is in Purple Hibiscus.
Moreover, in “MrsBeast”, Duffy subverts the male-female stereotype, and uses the form ofdramatic monologue so Mrs Beast speaks directly to the reader. This allows thereader to gain a deeper insight into Mrs Beasts’ feelings of sexuality. MrsBeast expresses she is “No longer a girl, knowing her own mind”suggesting she considers herself a mature woman who has a strong identity as awoman. She announces “I had the language, girls “reinforcing the waysexuality is explored through language. Duffy portrays Mrs Beasts’ confidenceand freedom to openly display her sexuality not only through her body, but alsothrough sexual language. This reinforces Duffy’s use of language as a powerfultool in all of her poems which empowers her protagonists This is in contrast toKambili’s struggle and lack of ability to express herself using her voice.Similarly, in ‘Little Red Cap’, the protagonist describes words as “warm,beating, frantic, winged; music and blood” the fast pace of these wordsgives a fast and exciting feeling, suggesting ‘Little Red Cap’ is excited. Theadjective “frantic” suggests she feels panicked.
Perhaps she feelsfrantic because she feels overwhelmed by all the “words”, suggestingshe feels passionate about language. The juxtaposition between the nouns’music’ and ‘blood’ contrast the difference of two ideas representing the painand pleasure of literature. Thus, Duffy explores sexuality through language asa means of liberating women in literature. This is in contrast to the traditional African patriarchalsociety which subtly prohibits female sexuality and female desire for sex.
Perhaps Duffy implies sexuality is something that developsduring female adolescence, as she uses a young girl as the main protagonist. Thisimplies female adolescents discover their own sexuality during adolescence,which is developed during their sexual awakening, like Kambili’s own sexualawakening when she developed feelings for Father Amadi. Duffy indicates thatfor a female adolescent to discover and embrace their sexuality, theirinnocence will be lost and “ripped” away from them.
Thus, theirchildhood will be destroyed. Similarly, Kambili’s childhood has been”ripped” away and stolen from her by her father. Perhaps Duffy suggests that embracing yoursexuality as an adolescent develops and matures you into a strong female adult-a similar themes in all poems which are all from the perspective of a femaleadult who have an expressive sexuality. Thus, in this way, Duffy celebratesfemale sexuality. While Little Red Cap is making her way through the woods, her”stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer snagged on twigand branch”. Nouns such as ‘stockings’, ‘shreds’ and ‘scraps’ are sibilantwhich creates harsh ‘s’ sounds which suggest danger and passion. The sibilancecreates a rhythmic flow when read aloud which adds to the seductive theme ofthe text.
Perhaps Duffy is attempting to seduce the readers. The”ripping” of Little Red Cap’s “stockings” symbolises herinnocence being “ripped” away from her and “stockings” area piece of material associated with females which can be viewed as provocativeattire. Perhaps Duffy indicates her sense of sexuality through her clothing.Also, the powerful use of the colour red i.e. Little Red Cap’s ‘blazer’symbolises passion, love, an danger. However, as she is running through thewoods and her clothes are being “ripped”, reminds us that she is justa child who could actually just be playing and running through the woods. The World’s wife is very much a feminist novel.
Feminism is aliterary movement which tries to discourage discrimination and humiliation ofwomen; it focuses its attention on the emancipation and liberation of womenwhich is done in The World’s Wife. Ogunyemi (1988:61) definesfeminism as “smacks of rebelliousness, fearlessness” Thisreflects the behaviour of the female protagonists in The World’s Wife whoengage in stereotypical masculine activities such as casual sex, swearing, etc.Duffy employs sexuality as a key tool in most of her poems to subvert thetraditional roles of both genders. In Little Red Cap, Duffy subverts the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood to tell ‘Little Red Cap’s’ personal story andexperience using the form of dramatic monologue. Duffy employs imagery tocreate a tone of sensuality, whereas the original children’s story (Little RedRiding Hood) had no sexual themes but more of a concept of morality.
On the other hand, Duffy subverts the stereotypical genderroles, presenting her female protagonists as masculine characters who rejectfeminine behaviour and behave as if they are men with an open and freesexuality rather than being submissive and passive which are characteristicsthat are praised in African culture. The African community where Mama andKambili come from views the ‘good woman’, expressed by Udumukwu (2007:3) who”suffers the effects of oppression and neglect, and who must maintain a silenceand passivity in order to remain good. Silence and passivity are two principalfeatures of a good woman”.
Mama is also a “good woman who bears thewicked children of war and disaster” as expressed by Udumukwu (2007:3). Thissharply contrasts the masculine and angry women in The World’s Wife. However,feminists would criticise Purple Hibiscus for the exploitation of women, butwould more so praise it for addressing the issue of domestic violence andrepression of women.
Ranti (2012:1) also affirms that the novel is “acomplex picture of a man struggling with his demons, taking out his struggleson those he loves: his wife and his daughter”. Ranti highlights the issueof domestic violence which is significantly ignored in some African cultures. Another way female sexuality is repressed in Purple Hibiscusis through the violation and abuse of females. Ibeku says: Most African novelspresent female characters as sex objects or inferior beings (2015) who lacksexuality. Beatrice is presented as a sexual object who is abused and violatedby her husband. Her body is violated by Papa on page 41: “Mama was slungover his shoulder like sacks of rice..
.There’s blood on the floor”. Mama’s body “slung over hisshoulder” suggests she is being personified almost like an animal that hasbeen slaughtered. The verb “slung” signifies Mama is being carelesslycarried which emphasizes Papa’s dehumanizing nature.
Thus, demonstratingBeatrice’s body as being violated by her husband – perhaps in thisway her sexuality is also repressed. This portrays Mama as a predominantlypassive African woman living in a patriarchal society whereas Papa is adominant male, free to express his violence towards Mama (without anyconsequences). Perhaps Adichie is highlighting the prevalent issue of domesticviolence within the African community. She portrays Mama as a ‘good woman’ whoaccepts all forms of violence from her husband because she’s too afraid tospeak out due to the oppressive nature of the Church and society.
This showsthat the violence towards Mama has caused her to repress her feelings as shehas no other choice due to her role as an African woman within the community. Repression of female sexuality in “Purple Hibiscus”is portrayed through the character of 15-year-old Kambili and relationship withFather Amadi. “I could not help staring at him because his voice pulled me”indicates Kambili’s attraction to Amadi as she can “not help staring athim” suggesting she finds him beautiful. The adjective “pulled”suggests by force. The reader sees Kambili as a young woman who is ableto express her feelings for a man, like the female protagonist’s in “TheWorld’s Wife”.
Kambili announces “his voice pulled me”indicating the way in which he speaks is attractive. Not only is Father Amadi’svoice enchanting for Kambili’s ears, but the fact that she is paying attentionto his voice and the words that he speaks, implies her desire and struggle tobe able to speak freely as a young female adolescent. Furthermore, “hespoke so effortlessly, as if his mouth were a musical instrument that just letsound out when touched”. The adjective “effortlessly” impliesFather Amadi speaks with no physical or mental effort.
Kambili compares Father Amadi’s voice to a”musical instrument”, reinforcing the idea she finds his voicemelodic, perhaps even soothing for her to hear, like some music itself. FatherAmadi speaking “so effortlessly” reinforces Kambili’s struggle toexpress herself. This signifies her struggle to find her voice in a patriarchalAfrican society. Thus, we can see that Adichie portrays the repression offemale sexuality through language. Female sexuality is a major theme in both “PurpleHibiscus” and “The World’s Wife” but it is presented completelydifferently in both texts.
In “The World’s Wife”, Duffy’s characters swearand have casual sex etc. – they rebel against gender norms. They present theirsexuality as liberated which is expressed through language and actions.
Furthermore,dramatic monologue and strong imagery is also employed to reflect female sexuality.However, in Purple Hibiscus, it is significantly repressed throughout thenovel.