Carol Ann Duffy's Mean Time
Carol Ann Duffy's poem 'Mean Time' is about loss of love and the
different ways in which time brings about change or loss of life
itself. The poem is very personal and autobiographical to Duffy's life
as are most of her poems. 'Mean Time' is based on mourning your lost
love and how regrets seem meaningless when one day you get up and
realise its not just time which has passed you by, but time has stolen
your life too, and in the end it will only be the mourning that you
regret. The idea of time and how it is finite is one of the main
themes in the poem.
The title 'Mean Time' could be emphasising a few points one of which
is how time can be 'mean' when one needs a few moments to reflect on
their thoughts, so in result ' the effects of time can be mean'.
The first line in the opening stanza, conveys one of the themes in the
poem 'the clocks slid back an hour' here Duffy is using sibilance, to
show an image of the clocks sneakily sliding back as it steals 'light
from' her life. Duffy is trying to show how the narrator has had an
hour stolen from her without her awareness, which also highlights that
the speaker has no control over her life, as clocks tend to be turned
back by hand.
The end of the stanza is end stopped, as it describes the character
strolling 'through the wrong part of town' which firstly seems
pointless but also emphasises that the relationship is coming to its
closing stages as there is no where else to go but in the opposite
direction and move on.
In the second stanza there are many connotations of words which
describe the narrator's emotions. First of all the 'unmendabl rain'
which is symbolizing the woman's lack of ability to stop crying. Next
Duffy describes her heart 'gnawing' on the 'bleak streets' which gives
us a miserable and depressing feeling of emotion which the narrator is
going through. The stanza is ended by stating that it's 'our mistakes'
she is recognising that her partner is not all to blame and they need
to share mistakes, this shows the first sign of putting her life back
The poem moves on and tells us how she wants just 'one hour' to be
lifted so she 'would never have said' the words she did. This sets the
tone for the whole poem; regret and longing. It makes the reader feel
that she has wasted enough time of her life on this one man, its time
to move on. However one moment she is regretting spending too much
time mourning her lost love, now she is stepping over old territory
again, which makes the poem a bit cliché, so the sympathy for the
woman is now lost.
One of the last important themes of 'Mean Time' is conveyed in the
final stanza, this is how time is finite 'we will be dead' because
death is rapidly approaching everyone, which highlights the fact that
mourning is pointless....