“The and “he entered me.” The verb“The and “he entered me.” The verb

“The Devil’s
Wife,” published by Carol Ann Duffy in her collection “The World’s Wife,”
explores a virulent and malignant love, which pushes the speaker to murder –
despite her incessant claims of innocence and assertions of blame in the last
three sections. The speaker of the poem has been interpreted by many critics as
Myra Hindley, who alongside Ian Brady, was sentenced to prison for the “Moors
Murders,” – the abductions and burials of five children in Saddleworth Moor. Formed
into five parts, Duffy explores the various stages of the speaker’s life and
her sanity.  

In the first
section of the poem, “Dirt,” the speaker presents her view of her relationship
with “The Devil” as rapidly intensifying, with both characters initially equally
aggressive and belligerent, but this worsening through contact with each other.  The speaker “scowled” and “sneered,”
emphasising her more animalistic nature and lack of humanity. If the speaker is
interpreted as Myra Hindley, these bestial verbs could convey the savagery and
callousness of the murders, with which Hindley showed no remorse. Rather than
as a victim of his manipulation, Duffy animalises the speaker, presenting her
as churlish and unrestrained. In this dramatic monologue, the speaker recalls
sex through simple sentences and violent imagery, such as “he bit my breast”
and “he entered me.” The verb “bit” highlights the speaker’s masochism, showing
how she was drawn to him through sexual gratification, unable to think outside
of their relationship, also identifying “The Devil’s” ruthlessness, even in
love, in his ability to harm those closest to him. “He entered me” stands as a
double entendre, with the verb “entered,” being salacious in referring to their
fornication, or alternatively suggesting she was possessed by him –
metaphorical for the devil entering her body and mind. However, this could be
interpreted as the speaker avoiding responsibility, blaming their relationship
as sexually controlling, leading her to “bury a doll,” euphemistic for the
murders of children. The noun “doll” signifies childhood and a period of innocence,
further reinforcing the image of a ruthless speaker committing her most heinous
of acts against the most innocuous victims. “Dirt” coveys the speaker as
infatuated with her partner, irreverent of life outside her relationship.

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Section
three, “Bible,” is built more on fear and panic than the reminiscence in
section one, conveying the speaker’s chaotic mind. These four stanzas lack
punctuation or a pause, and are organised in the form of a sonnet as it is a
regular pattern of three quatrains followed by a rhyming couplet. The
inconsistency between the babbling of the speaker with the ordered structure
create a sense the speaker has some form of consciousness, or that her gabbling
is her control in the presentation of herself as manic. By conveying herself as
crazed, the speaker can eschew culpability, reinforcing her character as narcissistic
and always cunning and conniving. Nevertheless, the speaker’s desperation is
evident in what she lists – “a lawyer a vicar a priest,” a group of people who
can alleviate her guilt or offer her comfort. The religious references of a
vicar and priest are particularly significant considering Hindley converted to
Catholicism during incarceration, which some criticised as her falsely
conveying inner change. The speaker never accepts responsibility, claiming “it
was him” and “no idea,” “not in the room.” The last stanza lacks a Volta,
suggesting there has never been nor will there ever be a resolution.

Stanza five
– “Appeal” – is significant in that Hindley submitted an appeal for her case to
be reviewed, claiming Brady manipulated her and therefore she was not
criminally accountable.  The anaphora of “if”
with the possible punishments she could face listed after shows an unacceptance
of judgement, in addition to responsibility. The semantic field of merciless
retribution is established through verbs in every line, such as “stoned,”
“hung” and “torn.” In this way, the last stanza reflects the end of the speaker’s
life, both literally and socially, whereas before she thought she’d “be out on
the open road” in “twelve or fifteen” years, she now understands she has no
future. This stanza emphasises a brutality in the penalty she faces, however in
repeating these, we could suggest the speaker is reverberating her
possibilities as too brutal. She claims, “a life is a life is a life,” which
could be interpreted as the speaker suggesting those who condemn her are
equally as barbaric, and thus hypocritical. The speaker calls into argument a
debate of humanity and capital punishment in a way to save herself. Contrary to
“Bible,” the speaker appears more calculated, determined to escape conviction.