The two poems ‘Valentine’ by Carol Ann Duffy and ‘A Woman to her lover’ by Christine Walsh both share the main theme of love and the perfect relationship or valentine’s gift. Each poet has used vivid symbolism to express their true feelings on this theme. Duffy has effectively described how love is like an onion, whereas Walsh has described her ideal relationship by using symbolic metaphors. ‘Valentine’ is a poem about the ideal gift to receive on Valentine’s Day. Most people would not associate an onion to being a symbol of love. A rose is more commonly known to perhaps symbolise the beauty of the person that is receiving it.
However Duffy has successfully matched the aspects of love to the properties of an onion. She has turned an ordinary dull object into a romantic gift that she feels represents love so much more than “A red rose or a satin heart. ” Duffy has also compared an onion as being like “A moon wrapped in brown paper”. The moon is a romantic symbol in its own right, being seen as feminine and luminous. The brown paper is hiding the moon, but when it is unwrapped “it promises light” and beauty. Duffy is saying that love has both a positive and negative side. Duffy has used many symbols to develop the main theme of love.
She has expressed her beliefs throughout the poem by using these symbols that love is not perfect which is reinforced with lines such as “It will blind you with tears, like a lover” and “its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife”. This is reminding us that love can be hurtful and dangerous; that just like a knife that cuts an onion, love can cut through our hearts and emotions. It is not all about “Cute cards or a kissogram” but “possessive and faithful… for as long as we are”. Duffy explains that “she is trying to be truthful” and realistic, about how she truly feels about love and life. A woman to her lover’ is about what Christine Walsh sees in a true relationship. By using different symbols, Walsh has described to me how a woman should not have to be treated in a married relationship. The slave is used to symbolise being caught in a relationship where she is being controlled and having her life written out for her, she has no choice but to obey her husband. She doesn’t want to be his “bondslave” and be used and taken advantage of. She doesn’t want to be an angel that “can do no wrong” and “sit for feeble worship. Or a sexual object that has no say in how many children she will have. But if her lover asks that she be his “comrade, friend and mate” to spend the rest if his life with her through the “passion… joy… and sorrow” then she will accept his request. Being with him till death and loving each other as equals till they “reach the very heart of God. ” Each stanza has its own idea but the main theme of ‘A woman to her lover’ is she does not want to be treated like an object but like an equal human being. Walsh lived in the Victorian era and the role of a woman was to have children and tend to the house.
Walsh clearly disagrees with this, telling her lover how she doesn’t want to be treated like a slave, a “wingless angel” or a sexual object which were the expectations for a married woman. Both poets have effectively used symbolism throughout their poems. Both show the positive and negative sides of love. However ‘Valentine’ is how an onion represents love so well and ‘A woman to her lover’ is how Walsh believes woman should and shouldn’t be treated in a married relationship. These ideas were developed throughout the poems by efficiently using symbolism that has the reader understanding exactly what the poet wanted them to see.