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Originally. Carol Ann Duffy. Originally.

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  1. Originally Carol Ann Duffy

  2. Originally • An autobiographical poem, Duffy recalls the sense of isolation and alienation she experienced as a child when her parents moved the family from the Gorbals in Glasgow to England. The pain of leaving her homeland is recalled in the opening stanza as Duffy remembers the details of the train journey to England. The second stanza also focuses on a journey - the metaphorical one we all experience as we grow up. This stanza also demonstrates the problems Duffy had adapting to her new surroundings. In the final stanza Duffy reveals that although she integrated into her new environment to an extent, she did not do so to the same degree as the members of her family. The end of the poem suggests that even as adult she has mixed feelings about her sense of national identity.

  3. Originally – Stanza 1 • “We came from our own country” – the first person plural “we” is used to demonstrate how the move affected Duffy’s entire family. • “our own” – assonance is used to underline the sense of belonging. • “our” – repetition – emphasises how strongly the family identify with their homeland. • “red room” – metaphorical depiction of the train. The colour symbolism here could be interpreted as highlighting Duffy’s anger at having to leave her home.

  4. Originally – Stanza 1 • “fell” – suggests an uncontrollable plunge; Duffy has no control over the move – she has to go because her parents are moving. • “our mother singing” – Duffy’s mum seems to be more upbeat about the move than Duffy or her brothers. • “cried” – suggests the brothers were very upset about leaving their homeland. • “bawling” – suggests wailing loudly, which again highlights the extent to which one of the brothers was upset. • “Home/Home” – the repetition and capitalisation highlights the children’s desperate desire to return to where they grew up.

  5. Originally – Stanza 1 • “as the miles rushed back to the city,” – shows the desire to return as she is retracing the journey in her mind. • “rushed” – helps to convey how desperate Duffy was to return home. • “vacant” – suggests emptiness; literally this refers to the empty house, but figuratively Duffy could feel empty as she has been separated from her place of birth. • “stared” – suggests disbelief; the shock of the move seems to have stunned Duffy into silence.

  6. Originally – Stanza 1 • “blind toy” – “blind” suggests an inability to see, which is appropriate as she cannot perceive what the future holds. • “holding its paw” – suggests that Duffy is so upset about the move she needs reassurance and comfort from her toy.

  7. Originally – Stanza 2 • “all childhood is an emigration” – metaphor - suggests that all childhood is a journey, which leads to change and new experiences and means that you need to leave people/places who were dear to you behind. • “resigned” – suggests the futility of trying to resist change. • “no one knows you” – suggests a sense of alienation and loss. • “sudden” – suggests a violent change or alteration. • “Your accent wrong” – Use of the second person “your” indicates that Duffy’s experiences are relevant to us all.

  8. Originally – Stanza 2 • “seem” – at first glance it appears easy to assimilate, but Duffy suggests this is not the case. • “unimagined” – suggests horrors that had not been anticipated. • “pebble dashed estates” – suggests poverty, lack of opportunity and poor life chances. • “big boys” – suggests a violent and intimidating presence. The childlike alliteration and phrasing helps to convey the idea that it is Duffy’s younger self who is experiencing this event. • “eating worms” – the grotesqueness of this act serves to underline how culturally removed Duffy is from these boys. This behaviour is completely alien to her.

  9. Originally – Stanza 2 • “shouting” – suggests intimidating, boorish behaviour. • “you don’t understand” – reference to the differences in dialect between Glasgow and England. • “My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth in my head” – simile – just as one can’t forget about a loose tooth and needs to continually poke and prod it, Duffy’s parents cannot stop being worried about the impact their decision to move has had on their children. • “I want our own country” – links back to the opening line and highlights the strong desire Duffy has to return to the land of her birth. This line has a childish simplicity, which, like “big boys”, reminds us of how young Duffy was when this event occurred.

  10. Originally – Stanza 3 • “But” – marks a shift in Duffy’s line of thought. At the end of stanza 2 Duffy is desperate to return to Scotland, but in this stanza her assimilation into English life is revealed. • “then you forget” – suggests that ultimately people adapt to changes in their circumstances and get on with their lives. • “seeing your brother swallow a slug” – links to the earlier reference to eating worms. It is clear that Duffy’s brother has assimilated, as he is now behaving like the local boys.

  11. Originally – Stanza 3 • “skelf of shame” – “shame” suggests Duffy feels guilty about the loss of her Scottish identity. However, the use of colloquial Scots “skelf” suggests her Scottishness hasn’t been completely eradicated. Also, like a splinter, her memories of home still trouble her. • “I remember my tongue shedding its skin like a snake” – simile; Duffy likens the loss of her childhood Scottish accent to a snake casting off its old skin. The imagery of the serpent could suggest she feels she has betrayed her homeland, just as the serpent in Genesis betrays Adam and Eve.

  12. Originally – Stanza 3 • “my voice in the classroom sounding like all the rest” – This contrasts with the earlier reference to “Your accent wrong”. It is clear here that Duffy’s accent has become anglicised, suggesting that she has integrated to some extent into her new environment. • “Do I only think…” – suggests that the rest of the family have assimilated into English life, but part of her still pines for home. • “Where do you come from?” – a simple question, but she can’t answer it, such is her confusion over her identity. • “Originally?” – the question suggests confusion over her identity - it has changed from its original state. • “hesitate” – again suggests uncertainty over her identity.

  13. Themes • Identity • Change • Growing up • Belonging • Isolation • Yearning

  14. Contrast • Belonging v alienation • Integration v failure to assimilate • Optimism (mother on the train) v pessimism (children on the train) • Early optimism of mother v later parental concerns

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