Stealing - Carol Ann Duffy - Study Notes.
for the text of all Duffy's poems click here
Starts with a question in line 1 - interacts with audience - challenges and gains interest
"Midnight" - image of darkness, night - links to perceptions of thieves and night-time.
"mute" - silence and unanswering, personification of object that is the snowman. No interaction with this except on physical level (identifies narrator's social difficulties?)
"mate" - friend/sexual partner/soulmate? - narrator able to identify with the inanimate snowman. Their minds are compares in simile form as both being cold like
ice - cold mind, reserved, indifferent, uncaring of people's reactions to his/her actions.
"Better off dead" - identifies own moral structure, that taking what you want to take is acceptable - outside mores of society. This is character's way of life, stealing for the thrill, to feel alive.
Lines 7-9 - Difficulty of stealing and moving the snowman illustrates and enhances the feeling of futility in the narrator's actions. 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 gets to feel through his/her actions, gains some sort of emotional response (unattainable in 'normal' circumstances?)
"Part of the thrill" - the narrator steals with the full knowledge of the upset that his/her actions will cause the victims. Identifies the cruelty and selfishness of his/her actions and tat this is the motivation for the theft.
"Life's tough" - using this as an excuse for actions, absolving self of blame. Possible feeling that is doing the children a favour - teaching the about the 'real world.'
"Ghost" - like a spirit, malevolent image, insubstantial thing (as snowman is - hence attraction to it?). Ghost is something outside of society, unacceptable.
"leave a mess" - character deliberately defiles people's homes - part of cruelty and thrill derived from other's misery and suffering.
"gloved hand" - shows intelligence, leaves no fingerprints. Also a separation from his victims, has no direct physical contact with them or their things, has a barrier between himself and these others in society.
"Mirrors" - image of insubstantiality - reflections formed by mirrors, links to ghost and snowman.
"I sigh like this - Aah" - character gains relief/freedom/sense of worth from actions (Has found own place in society?).
Lines 16-18 - Act of stealing and reassembling ruins the snowman so act is in this sense worthless. Destruction of snowman follows. This could have been done at the original site, with the same effect on the children who built it, so why move it at all? It is this that identifies fully the narrator's need to steal for kicks, as it is only this that could explain the reasons behind the actions. Was the original intention to destroy the snowman?
"It seems daft now" - realises futility but makes no apology for actions - identifies the need for something to permeate the intense boredom felt.
"Alone" - key word, no place in society, like the ghost he/she is compared to, insubstantial within society?
"Sick of the world" - no place within the world and no reasons to act as it dictates. Is this dislike of the world an excuse for the actions, a reason for the actions, the cause of the actions or an effect of the actions?
"eat myself" - intense image of boredom. Would harm self to overcome boredom and is doing so. Not in such an overt way but in a more subtle psychological way. Through actions is harming self as is further distancing self from others and causing self to be more alone, and therefore more bored and out of place. The image is an identification of the narrator's life, boredom, punctuated only by random acts of vandalism, theft and cruelty. There is no meaning to his/her actions other than to satisfy and entertain at other's expense.
Ends with another questions that is an even more overt challenge to the reader. Shows that the narrator considers him/her self to be misunderstood and alone, that his/her experience is something outside of normal understanding and comprehension. Possibly this is some sort of way of excusing him/her self for his/her actions.