‘Before You Were Mine’ by Carole-Anne Duffy is a captivating and insightful piece of literature in which the narrator reflects on the days of her mother’s youth. The poem touches on young womanhood and the poet effectively evokes the essence of this stage of life. The writer employs the methods of word choice and imagery to effectively convey her thoughts and feelings to the reader.
In verse one the poet creates a vivid image of her mother as a young woman.
‘I am ten years away from the corner you laugh on.’
Here Duffy manipulates word choice in order to create the feeling that her mother lived a carefree life prior to her birth. There is an affectionate tone and a feeling that the writer is fondly reflecting on an image of her mother as a young woman. The use of present tense captures the attention of the reader instantly and gives the impression that the author is talking to her mother pre-birth, however as the poem continues it soon becomes clear that she is in fact looking at an old photograph of her mother when she was young.
‘... you’re pals, Maggie McGeeney and Jean Duff.’
It is evident from this that the poet knows her mother on an intimate level and takes an interest her life before she was born as she knows the names of her friends in the picture.
‘Your polka-dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.’
Due to the fact the poet has chosen to write a minor sentence containing only one word it draws the reader’s attention to it and forces them to contemplate significance of that word. This makes the reader visualise the beauty and glamour of Marilyn Monroe and think of the writer’s mother in a similar way. The reference to her dress further ties in the connection to Marilyn Monroe due to the iconic image of her dress blowing up in the world renowned film ‘The Seven Year Itch’.
The poet continues to evoke the essence of young womanhood in verse two:
‘I’m not here yet. The thought of me doesn’t occur.’
The poet’s use of word choice in this line demonstrates that at such an age you are living in the moment and there are limitless possibilities for the future which you have yet to even consider. So much so, she has not yet even contemplated having a child as she is too busy enjoying life and having fun.
‘... in the ballroom with the thousand eyes, the fizzy, movie tomorrows the right walk home could bring.’
This gives the impression that every eye in the room was on her mother, therefore we can only assume that she was a sight to behold, a beautiful, elegant and graceful woman. The writer demonstrates an understanding of her mother as a young woman in that if the right person walked her home she would have had that wonderfully euphoric, elated feeling the following day. ‘the fizzy movie tomorrows’ creates a sense of this magical feeling perfectly. The daughter is also aware that her Grandmother would have been waiting up to tell her mother off for being late in. However her mother would consider it a small price to pay for such an evening: ‘... you’re Ma stands at the close with a hiding for the late one. You reckon it’s worth it’. In using the words that would have been said by the people in question at the time there is a more authentic feeling to the passage. The third stanza signalises a change in the direction of the poem and in the poet’s mother’s stage of life as she progresses from young womanhood into motherhood.
‘The decade ahead of my loud possessive yell was the best one, eh?’
This statement marks a turning point in the poem and in the life of the poet’s mother. In making such a remark Duffy is addressing the fact that her birth dramatically altered her mother’s life and surreptitiously hints at it being for the worst. However this is not necessarily the opinion of her mother. The writer realises that the ten years prior to her birth must have been fun filled and carefree time for her mother.
‘I remember those