Mrs Midas by Carol Ann Duffy

Mrs. Midas by Carol Ann Duffy: The poem “Mrs. Midas” by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem inspired by the famous Greek myth of King Midas - the story of the golden touch.

Carol Ann Duffy shifted the perspective from the third-person narrator to Midas’s wife, created a dramatic monologue.

“Mrs. Midas” is included in the poetry collection The World’s Wives by Carol Ann Duffy, published in 1999.

The collection takes different characters from stories, histories, and myths which focus on men, and presents them for the public to look at the women that were previously obscured behind the men.

With a feminist heart, the poet made the invisible role in history, female, become the main character in her poems. Based on these points, I want to discuss the reverse and confirmation of gender stereotype and family roles in the rewritten of the old myth.

Summary: The modern version of King Midas’s golden touch happened through Mrs. Midas’s eyes in September, the beginning of the autumn when everything also naturally turning yellow.

The wife was in the kitchen preparing food, while her husband was in the garden. The scene is harmonious like their other days.

Then she opened the window and noticed the gold pear in her husband’s hands, like a lightbulb, become shiny in the dark of the night. She started to feel strange.

There are many golden images soon appearing one by one in this poem, the doorknob “gleamed” after the touch of Mr. Midas, “the fairy lights”, “golden chalice” and “teeth of rich”.

Mrs. Midas was shocked. And after listening to her husband’s wish, she felt afraid and despised the ability and greed of her husband while he turned everything around him into gold.

Being terrified, the wife separated everything from her husband, including the cat, the phone and herself.

Mrs Midas by Carol Ann Duffy

At the night, she dreamt of the baby she could never bore and grieved for their halcyon days when they have passionate love. She decided to left her husband in the wild, she visited him a few times at first, and gradually not at all.

She resented him for his selfishness and lack of thoughts. However, she still remembers him in the gold light of days and misses his love and touch.

Analysis: There are images of the ancient king and also a modern family in this poem. We can see the two images interweave through the description of different kinds of gold glowing and modern elements like car, cigarette, and house (not a castle).

Despite the intention to bring the female speaker to the front, the poet also deals with modern gender issue.

The reoccurring gold represents the desire for wealth. And the desire is owned by the male protagonist in this poem, the female speaker didn’t possess the same desire as her husband and was observing the wish granted without the ability to change.

Her attitude toward the desire of gold is disdaining at first, and she didn’t understand her husband put the order of pursuing money beyond family happiness.

She thinks this act is “pure selfishness” and “lack of thought for me”. Her opinion on gold is shown in the poem, “Do you know about gold? It feeds no one; aurum, soft, untarnishable; slakes no thirst.” Indicating that although gold looks are shiny and desirable, it actually couldn’t bring happiness to the family, nor is the necessity in life.

When I read this poem, the modern elements made me view this story as a metaphor of a normal family which in the house husband dream of making money and wife dream of having children and happy family life.

The difference in desire and expectation of life drove them apart, which is also quite common in society nowadays.

Yet, consider the poet’s other works and her background. Since it is under the growth of feminism, the first wave feminism was to fight for the right to vote and then spread the idea to female body autonomy, workplace rights, and gender equality, causing second and even more waves of this social movement.

The first step of fighting for one’s right is to express. I think it’s the motif of “Mrs. Midas”, to give voice to female, making the forgotten characters stand out to tell their story is the first level against the patriarchal society.

And the reverses of gender stereotypes are also seen in this poem.

For example, when the wife realized her husband’s wish was starting to endanger their home, she decided to send him away. Her husband sat in the back of the car, accepting this decision.

Moreover, she is honest to express her desire of her husband’s touch. The touch of her husband used to represent their intimate love, warmth and sexual relationship.

To confess the female desire for sex is not a common thing at that time. Physical autonomy is one of the rights feminists fight for, which means women also should have the power to control their sexuality.

On the one hand, there is a novel idea of woman express their needs; on the other hand, the wife in the poem still has no power control her sexuality, because Mr. Midas chose gold over his wife, and in some way, it took away her right of having children.

When couples have different goals in life, it seems like the female is the one who sacrifices involuntarily.

Though the poem is rewritten form the ancient Greek myth, it didn’t change much of the gender structure.

Back to the original thoughts of this poem, whether it’s the intention of the poet or not, this poem seems to leave readers to conclude that males always be the ones who ignore family and obsessed with material life, and female-only dream of the maternal duty.

Isn’t it another kind of gender inequality? It reflected that men still dominated the money-making activities, like working, and female is preoccupied with domestic life.

In conclusion, though the intention to look at certain old things in a new way, there are some settings that seem to confirm the stereotype due to the perspective of society at that time.

However, the rules of how the relationship works between couples apply to all, and the poem itself still a sad but charming story to look at.
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