Analysis Of Duffy Stealing

Submitted By Libby-Spencer
Words: 1042
Pages: 5

Not the easiest poem to understand on first reading: the whole poem, like its last line, is a challenge to the reader / listener - You don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you? It is a dramatic monologue in which Duffy creates a rather strange, disturbing character. A persistent, unrepentant, possibly psychotic thief speaks about the most unusual thing they (no gender is given) have ever stolen – a snowman. They mention other activities and items which they have stolen, before returning to the snowman, an action which they found ultimately disappointing. They seem to be alienated, antisocial and bitter with a sadistic streak. However, despite their unnerving psychopathology, they do not seem to be a physical threat to anybody. Some even see them as comical. The title, Stealing has other connotations– it also means moving quietly and stealthily so nobody notices you creeping around.

The first stanza suggests an interview of some kind with the thief describing the theft of the snowman.
The most unusual thing I ever stole? - Duffy challenges the reader by having the character start with what sounds like the repetition of a question asked by a listener – perhaps a psychiatrist, a social worker or a police officer.
A snowman – a very unexpected answer, which may cause an amused reaction; this person is seems very odd already!
Midnight – sums up the scene in a single word: the witching hour; an image of darkness– a suitable time for evil deeds. a…mute – a silent, odd choice for a mate. No interaction with it except on physical level - suggests narrator's social difficulties. mate – friend / sexual partner / soulmate - narrator strangely able to identify with the inanimate snowman. The simile shows both their minds as ice - cold minded, indifferent, uncaring of people's reactions to their actions - an archetypal psychopath.
I started with the head – this disturbing decapitation, even of an inanimate object, sounds brutally sadistic.

The second stanza develops their antisocial, cruel characteristics with them wanting to cause distress to innocent children.
Better off dead than giving in / not taking what you want – a powerful expression of their twisted moral perspective; taking what you want is totally acceptable, the best way of living - seeking thrills, to feel alive…otherwise you might as well be dead.
He weighed a ton - Huge effort to steal something that has no monetary worth. The snowman's only value lies within the feelings that it invokes in both the thief and the victims. fierce chill - character gains some sort of perverted emotional reaction unattainable in normal circumstances.
Part of the thrill…children would cry - the narrator steals with the aim that their cruel, selfish actions will distress children.
Life's tough – short brutal dismissive phrase; an excuse for their actions, doing them a favour - teaching about the ‘real world’. This suggests that their lives are miserable and unfulfilled – they might feel ignored and overlooked.

The narrator describes other minor crimes in the third stanza. They may not seem physically harmful, but they are the sort of things which do cause inconvenience and often distress. things I don’t need – a possible implication that they did need the snowman in some way, which is weird. joy-ride… break into houses just to have a look - no lasting harm is caused by these actions, but it is a creepy idea to think of this disturbed person stealing (creeping unnoticed, quietly and stealthily) around your home. mucky ghost - a malevolent image, not a normal human being; the ghost is never seen, only its actions. leave a mess - narrator deliberately defiles people's homes - part of cruelty and thrill derived from other's misery and suffering. gloved hand - intelligent, leaving no fingerprints but also a barrier, no direct physical contact between them and society.
Mirrors - image of insubstantiality - reflections formed by mirrors, links to ghost and snowman.
I sigh like this - Aah – soft