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Standing Female Nude, Carol Ann Duffy, Critical Essay

828 words - 4 pages

Carol Ann Duffy's poem "Standing Female Nude" is an ambiguous dramatic monologue of an unfulfilled proletarian woman. The poem explores the fight for power between the two characters, the ‘nude’ woman and the male artist. It emphasises the issues of social and gender separation (objectification of women) in France and explores Marxist philosophies. The model prostitute tries to “make a few francs”, which suggests that is all she is worth, while the painter tries to create a piece of art to become a great, “serious” artist. They use each other, but it is the woman who is subordinated to the men who gradually throughout the poem gains triumphant power over the man. “Standing Female Nude” is ...view middle of the document...

The model has no control, when the painter “drains the colour from” her, he also, metaphorically, drains her of life, of power and truth. She feels irritated and down, however she is also self-aware and amused by the fact that the "river-whore" is being transformed into great art, someone else's art. The onomatopoeic "coo" of the bourgeoisie makes fun of the upper class, as she poses in order to to supplement her income, her assessment doesn’t correspond to that made by people who claim to appreciate art.

In the second stanza the objectification continues as the artist is merely concerned with abstracts ("volume, space”). The model is "too thin" - her appearance and his inhuman expectations affect his art. She sees his superiority over her - "Madame, this is not good". She laughs at the irony of her future, is sceptical about what they call an art and undermines the power the painter had over her. “Little man” belittles the artist, she is the one in power now and he’s presented as an inadequate figure.

In the third stanza the model becomes aware of the sexual power she possesses. ”He stiffens for my warmth” reduces the status of men, it highlights how men can’t contain their sexual urges and consequently rely on women to fulfil their equal desires. This scenario is well known to her, and this is how she gains the control. This possession is expressed with a sexual metaphor - "he possesses me on canvas as he...

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