The Nooooo in “Havisham”

After completing the necessary paperwork to take pictures In MARBL I was ready to uncover some cool things about Duffy’s poem “Havisham.” One of the things that I noticed was the different formations of the word “no” that appeared throughout the edits. For clarification purposes the word “no” occurs in the following line: “Whole days / in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall” (5-6).

In one of her drafts Duffy wrote the word “no” as no no no. She then transitioned to forming the word as no-no-no. Lastly she scratches out no-no-no and uses the word nooooo, which I think has a valuable impact on her poem.

The word “no” serves in multiple ways. In the previous quote the word nooooo is used to emphasize feelings from both Duffy and Miss Havisham’s perspective. Duffy could have meant for the word to mean simply no in the context of creating the poem—as in, “No, this formatting has to change,” which is why she edits her drafts multiple times. Additionally the word could have been used from Miss Havisham’s perspective of , “No, why is this happening to me I don’t deserve this?”

I also think that the final version’s use of the word “no” is as equally important as the edits. For instance, the word “No” is capitalized and it has an extra o’s really place more emphasis and the word, which adds to the speaker’s feelings of distress, anger, etc.

Overall, I believe that Duffy is purposely crafting her use of the word” no“. It may have started as a word with the original intention of serving as just an ordinary word in the poem, however my discoveries have lead me to believe that the word means so much more. This is important because it shows how skilled of a writer Duffy is and that she plays extremely close attention to what may be viewed as minor details.

One Comment on “The Nooooo in “Havisham””

  1. Peter Marcinkowski says:

    When you wrote “Duffy could have meant for the word to mean simply ‘no’ in the context of creating the poem-as in, ‘No, this formatting has to change,'” reminds me of the story of how the Guns & Roses song “Sweet Child of Mine” got the phrase “where do we go now?” written into the bridge of the song. After playing through the beginning of the song multiple times, the band could not think of how to transition into the second half of the song, and one of the band members asked, “where do we go now?” Guns & Roses decided to use this phrase in the song, since it was literally how they were feeling about the transition. To relate it back, Duffy may very well have originally written “no” in her notebook as a way of expressing frustration with writing the poem, but then the word ended up in the poem itself. This phenomenon has certainly happened before.