To what extent is feminist criticism helpful in opening up potential meaning in the “Little Red Cap? ” Firstly, the title of the poem instantly creates a sense of intrigue as it is very similar to the title of Little Red Riding Hood the children’s story. This poem has been laid out very well because it gives the reader’s an opportunity to connect all similarities and differences to the children’s story. It also allows the reader to notice the huge contrast between both of the poems.

For example, the young girl within the children’s story is portrayed as young, innocent and naive whereas within the poem there is a sense of omniscience, independence and intelligence from the young girl. In the first stanza of the poem, Duffy begins with a metaphor “At childhood’s end”. This portrays that childhood is so powerful it has been described as a physical place signifying that childhood is the stem to life and how a person is brought up to become the person they are in the future.

The feminist criticism is helpful in opening up potential meaning in the little red cap because it portrays women from a completely different perspective. It states at the beginning of the poem “like mistresses by kneeling married men” this conveys how men are taking over the role of women and how women may not all be as innocent as they seem. From a feminist perspective they may view it as a positive as the role that the men have in the poem they would usually be expected to do.

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The poem completely diverts the social norm of the original little red riding hood as the little girl within the poem instead of being scared she portrays her fascination full of anticipation in the lines “what big ears he had! ” “What big eyes he had! ” “What teeth” which portrays her lack of nervousness which contrasts with her emotions from the original as originally she is scared.

The young girl’s omniscience is portrayed in the line “away from home to a dark tangled thorny place” as this suggests that she is more than aware of the wolves’ intentions giving the reader an insight of what the wolf’s lair must be like, a nasty eerie place away from the protection and safety of her home. This highlights the contrast of how women were perceived in the past compared to the future which emphasises the changing views within society.

Furthermore, Duffy uses a lot of imagery to convey certain messages over to the reader portraying how the little red cap has lost her innocence slowly as the poem proceeds. The imagery of her “stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer snagged on twig and branch” is very powerful as the use of colour red may symbolise the passion in this sexualised part of the poem however, it could also represent blood or murder or something unpleasant like forced rape.

In addition to this, Duffy uses different colour imagery later on within the poem in the line “where a wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books”, the connotations of the colours could represent that she does not have a passion for the colour or the wall in a physical sense but reinforces that she is very studious and has a passion for learning. Moreover, the connotations of the short sentence imagery “One bite, dead. ” This could illustrate the idea of her purity being taken away. This can also be portrayed as a turning point within the poem leading up to later events within the poem perhaps foreshadowing later events to come.

It could be argued that Duffy is setting the woman free as old women represent the past which could signify the reason for the grandmother’s death and the young girl could symbolize a fresh start and a new beginning as she is saved and allowed to carry on living. Towards the end of the poem it can be argued that Carol Anna Duffy is redrawing the typical stereotype of women because the idea of the young girl taking her independence, her taking an axe cuts the whole poem up emphasising the vast change in the stereotype of women today. In addition to this, the stanzas throughout the poem are irregular.

Stanza 5 is the longest one in the poem and the rushed enjambment of the words gives the reader a sense of excitement captivating the reader throughout the poem. Overall, the idea of feminist criticism is highlighted in depth at the beginning of the poem as there is a strong contrast in a sense of how young girls and women were portrayed in the past compared to the present. There is a strong emphasis on the girl’s characteristics, feelings and emotions that would contrast with the original little red riding hood making the poem that slight bit more intriguing.


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