Looking at “Brothers” through Duffy’s manuscript

Interestingly, the poem “Brothers” by Carol Ann Duffy has no edits and was written only once in her journal. Looking at her manuscript it is clear that something was different about this specific poem. Most probably, it is due to the fact that it may be a stream of consciousness from her own memories. However, it is important not to assume that Duffy is the narrator in her poems. In fact, the narrator of the first poem in Mean Time is male, signified by his “blazer. The badge. The tie.” (“The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team”, line 20-21) However, after doing a bit of research on Duffy, she did in fact have four brothers. The poem also mentions four brothers: “with these four men.” (line 1)

            Therefore, it is not unwise to speculate that this poem is perhaps autobiographical. It is still important to not confuse the author with the narrator. In fact, there is no telling sign of whether the narrator is male or female. The only clue is that the last line, “watch them shoulder it” may be interpreted as her brothers carrying a coffin and the narrator observing, because women do not generally shoulder coffins.

            The nature of the poem seems to be about Duffy’s past. This is supported by her lack of edits. This lack suggests that everything was known beforehand, and therefore Duffy does not want to alter her memories in order to edit the poem.


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