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Originally Commented [1]: It can be said that the title derives from

the question mentioned at the end of the poem: "where


are you from originally?". The title is important because
We came from our own country in a red room it explains the gist of the poem; the individual's ability
which fell through the fields, our mother singing and willingness to look back to their roots and how they
our fathers name to the turn of the wheels. relate to their roots as they progress in life.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home, Commented [2]: The use of the pronoun 'we' and the
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city, word 'our' highlight the fact that the whole family is
the street, the house, the vacant rooms moving and that the family will have to go through
missing their own home together.
where we didnt live any more. I stared
Commented [3]: Here, there is alliteration, which makes
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw. this line create an impact when read. Moreover, the red
room itself is a metaphor for the carriage in which the
family travels in as it goes to their new world. The use
of the colour 'red' is important, because red is usually
associated with anger and despair, and in this case, it
could refer to the anxiety and fury that is associated
with leaving one's home. An alternative interpretation is
that it highlights the fact that Duffy was leaving when
she was very young; so young that she wouldn't know
what a carriage was. This is reinforced by the fact that
she carries a teddy bear with her.
Commented [4]: "fell through the fields" is another
instance of the powerful alliteration and fricative that is
employed to create power while reading the poem. The
fact that it 'falls' can be interpreted as showing the
helplessness of them moving, and expound on the fact
that they are being drawn to the city across the fields.
Moreover, the use of the image of the 'fields' in that it
shows the enormous distance that the family may ...
Commented [5]: The enjambment in "our mother
singing our father's name..." helps link the setting of the
carriage moving down the hills of the fields to the action
of the mother singing. The purpose of the mother
singing can be interpreted in a variety of ways. First, it
can be seen as her singing to pacify her children, who...
Commented [6]: The fact that this is done "to the turn of
the wheels" implies that this was done as if it were
synchronised with their movement towards the city and
away from their home. Perhaps this shows that the
mother was trying to assure her distraught children of
their future, and pacify them as they miss their home. ...
Commented [7]: The actions of the brothers crying, and
one of them bawling, creates the dark image of the
anguish that the children face as they leave their
homes, and the degree of emotional loss that comes
with moving from one place to another. Moreover, the
fact that they bawl 'Home, Home' is crucial in that it ...
Commented [8]: "Miles rushed back" is an interesting
play of the verb "rush"; on a normal level, it shows that
the family was moving further and further away from
their home and towards their new one. The fact that the
miles rush towards their old city not only reflects the
distance they travelled, but also reiterates the sense of...
Commented [9]: There is a sense of pity created
towards the poetess in these lines. The fact that she
stares at the 'eyes' of a 'blind toy' reveals her lack of
someone who can comfort her. Her anxiety is shown by
the fact that she holds its paws. Additionally, this line
provides insight into who the narrator is, when. The ...
Commented [10]: The poet moves from describing the
All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow, insecurity involved in moving from one place to
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue another, to relating the process of moving with an
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden. individual's maturing. The fact that it is an 'emigration'
means that it is moving from one stage to another;
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar, taking things along the way and leaving others.
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
Commented [11]: "Some are slow" refers to how the
eating worms and shouting words you dont understand. transition to adulthood may take time, and therefore
My parents anxiety stirred like a loose tooth leave the individual more secure-seen by the choice of
in my head. I want our own country, I said. the verb "stand" in the third stanza. Moreover, there is
an interesting choice in the adjective "resigned";
perhaps this implies that the child would understand
the circumstances they are in, rather than being jolted
into a world of adulthood. The metaphor of emigration
is continued in the line, as the poet mentions that they
would be "up an avenue where no one you know
stays". This could be a reflection of the full maturity that
the individual would have; that they would be able to
live independently and on their own without being
reminded of their past. The structure is important, in
that this slow process is described in a fairly long ...
Commented [12]: The poetess abruptly shifts to the
idea that the movement to maturity is sudden. This is
reflected by the use of shorter sentences in the poem:
"Others are sudden. Your accent wrong.". The
reference to the accent being wrong is crucial in that it
reflects the lingual barrier that exists when moving from
one place to another. Additionally, there is a slight
sense of harshness in these two sentences; their ...
Commented [13]: There is a continuation of the idea of
a dramatic shift from childhood to maturity and in
parallel nature, from one home to the next. "Corners
which seem familiar leading to unimagined..." implies
that in this sudden transition, everything seems
different; this introduces a new aspect of fear that
would be associated with these sudden transitions.
There is a chain of three rather different matters: ...
Commented [14]: The simile comparing the parent's
anxiety stirring to the loose tooth could expound on
how anxious the parents are; just as they are anxious
about emigrating, they are anxious about the growing
up of their child. There is an interesting choice of a
simile in this stanza; the loose tooth only occurs in
childhood, which could reflect how the poetess speaks
from the point of view of someone who experienced ...
Commented [15]: This can be related both to the sense
of sadness in emigration and independence and
unwillingness to change as one grows up. The poetess
clearly doesn't like the new town that she lives in, and
as a result, seeks to return to the previous world that
she sees as her own; possibly due to her connection to
it in the past. Linking this to growing up; this shows the
hesitance of the child to change and them trying to ...
Commented [16]: There is an abrupt shift in the ideas
explored in the poem from the idea of resistance to
change, to succumbing to it. This sudden turn is
introduced with the use of the conjunction "but" at the
very beginning of the third stanza. There is a triplet of
actions: "forget, don't recall, change"; this triplet is
But then you forget, or dont recall, or change, crucial in that it helps expound on the idea of humans
eventually embracing the change. The use of ...
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue Commented [17]: The reference to the brother in this is
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice important because this is likely written from the
experience of Carol Ann Duffy; the fact that now her
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think once timid brothers "swallow a slug" and embrace their
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space new culture and identity. The sibilance in the phrase
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from? "swallow a slug" reiterates this sense of change; from
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate viewing something as disgusting to seeing it as normal.
This highlights a transformation in the mentality that
comes both with growing up and with moving abroad.
Important things to remember:
Commented [18]: There is an interesting simile
employed; a comparison of the tongue changing to the
-Narrative Perspective: It alternates from First Person in the beginning to Second Person. This snake shedding its skin. This tongue is a metaphor for
helps Carol Ann Duffy engage with the reader in the poem. the poetess's parlance; therefore, the idea that Duffy
-Structure: Each stanza is 8 lines long, which helps show the importance of each moment; (in tries to bring out is that of the total transformation of the
order of stanzas) missing the hometown, reluctance to accept a new world, and assimilation way that she speaks; this is in contrast to the "wrong"
accent that she had in the second stanza. The fact that
with the new world. There is a free verse in the poem, which creates a sense of the lack of she now sounds just like the rest brings out the
pattern in one growing up and emigrating; there is perpetual change (this is a personal response assimilation that comes with moving abroad, and the
so dont ask for evidence). There is enjambment used throughout the poem to connect one idea loss of one's previous identity and formation of a new
to the next. There are varied lengths of sentences in this poem, which is crucial to showing the one. This sense of adaptation and assimilation is the
idea of the five lines of the stanza.
incongruities that exist in moving from one place to another and moving across ones stages of
life; moreover, it reflects changes timespans of maturity, as mentioned in comments on Stanza Commented [19]: The use of the rhetorical question in
these lines helps the poetess explicate how much she
2.
changed. Duffy, in stating the obvious that she lost the
-Themes: "river, culture, speech, sense of first space and right
1. Maturing and the Rite of Passage place" effectively argues that she has left her whole
2. Emigration physical world behind. The obvious answer to the
3. Changes in Identity question of whether she lost more is obviously yes; as
will be explored in the next two lines.
Commented [20]: The poetess is asked where she
comes from; the fact that she hesitates shows how
much she has changed; she has even lost the sense of
belonging to her birthplace itself. This divorce that
emigration has caused raises the disturbing question of
identity; the poetess now identifies with the culture she
lives with, and it is so deeply embedded in her that she
can't even tell where she originally came from because
she couldn't relate to it. The abrupt use of the word
"originally" implies two things. First, this is only asked in
a cosmopolitan area where people of many origins
would live; therefore, it implies that this could occur in
the case of many people. Second, this harkens back to
the title of the poem "Originally", and perhaps creates a
sense of deep introspection about the question of the
poetess's identity; the fact she is asked such a question
can only come from the fact that she has been
assimilated into this new world. The inconclusive last
line "And I hesitate", shows how this question of
identity persists. There is also no period at the end of
the sentence; this implies that the search for identity
will go on forever.