The Devil’s Wife

I found The Devil’s Wife to have the most interesting and varying structure out

Prison Cell by Aapo Haapanen
Prison Cell by Aapo Haapanen

of all the poems in The World’s Wife. The poem is split into five different sections and it follows a plot of someone falls for the Devil and eventually spirals down the wrong path. She seemingly commits a heinous crime, as she is sentenced to life in prison. The first portion, Dirt, is pretty straight forward detailing the events that led to the woman succumbing to the Devil. Although in this section the Devil is identified as a man in her office, that fact becomes clouded with the burial of a doll. At that point, the woman becomes a shell of herself,  “I felt like this: Tongue of stone. Two black slates / for eyes. Thumped wound of a mouth. Nobody’s Mam” (17-18).

The Medusa section ruins the straightforwardness of the piece when the speaker says, “I flew in my chains over the wood where we’d buried the / the doll” (19). If the woman was in chains it insinuates that she was already shackled and possibly in prison before she committed the crime. Later she tells us that the Devil is gone which leads me to believe that the actual doll she buried was the body of the man she fell for. Bible utilizes double-negatives to confuse the reader, but it is fitting because it appears to represent the speaker’s experience of an interrogation room where she is disoriented and only wants someone to talk to that can help her sort out what happened because she doesn’t remember it herself.

The final two sections wrap up the poem well while also leaving it somewhat open-ended. In Night, the reader is shown the scene of the speaker in her cell alone, contemplating her remaining options. She decides to come forward and give a confession despite having no memory of when it actually happened. The final two lines of the poem encompass the open-ended nature of The Devil’ Wife. “But what did I do to us all, to myself / When I was the Devil’s wife?” I believe that that being the Devil’s wife does not mean that the man in the speaker’s office was the Devil, but her relationship with him is comparable to being possessed. Her depression or possession leads her to kill the man and bury him, but in her state she does not recognize the action as a crime and associates the man’s lifeless body as a doll.

 

1 thought on “The Devil’s Wife”

  1. John, I like your analysis here. Your interpretation of what happened with the murders is a bit different than what we thought of in class, but I think you do a good job defending your idea! You talk about how she becomes disoriented and less straightforward by the end of the poem. I wonder if Duffy is trying to show that the “wife” is descending into madness after being jailed, and her last line is a moment of clarity on what she has done.

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