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Higher English - Poems > Valentine > Flashcards

Flashcards in Valentine Deck (18)
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Not a red rose or a satin heart.

End stopped line

The negative adverb of "not" at the beginning of the sentence shows that Duffy straight away rejects the traditional symbols of love. The full stop suggests that they are too conventional.


I give you an onion.

End stopped line/metaphor

The conceit of the onion is carried on throughout the poem. It is very surprising to readers as an onion is not usually associated with love. The repition of this line in lines 2 and 13 emphasises the importance that this gift has to Duffy.


It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.


The onion is compared to a moon as both have similar spherical shapes. The moon however, is more often associated with love as when the moon is in the sky, it is when most love is expressed between lovers. Therefore, the onion is compared to it to show how the narrator views the onion and that it can just as equally represent love as moon.

The "brown paper" refers to the outer layer of the onion and emphasises that REAL romantic gifts do not need be wrapped in expensive wrapping to be special and meaningful.


It promises light


"Light" refers to the positive aspects of love and how love is like a light at the end of the tunnel. This suggests that the "light" offers hope and joy even in the darkest times and that it can guide people. Often related to the begging of a relationship.


like the careful undressing of love


Refers to the both the sexual and emotional aspect. This could be a reference to the removal of clothes during love making but it can also be a reference to the bond partners make as they learn more about each other.

The word choice of "careful" suggests that the relationship is one in which the lovers look out for each, tenderness, warmth and affection that is created as the lovers let down their external barriers and expose their true selves to one another.



Single word line

The full stop and solitary sentence emphasises that the speak really wants the recipetent to accept this gift. Also suggests that the recipient is unwilling to accept the onion as a gift.


It will blind you with tears like a lover


"blind" suggests how vunerable people becoming when they have been 'blinded by love' which usually has negative connotation of people relying too much on a relationship and that it has affected the decisions they make in life.

The simile therefore, suggests that love can be hurtful and can make people sad. Just as an onion when it is cut open can make people's eye sore and thus, making them cry, so too can love be painful for people and can also make them cry due to the other partner being inconsiderate.


It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.


This metaphor suggests that when you are hurt by love, it is so emotionally painful that it causes people to cry a lot of tears. Therefore, this affects the vision and when you look into the mirror, you will seem unsteady. This therefore, suggests that love in dangerous for our emotional well being as it can hurt us if we become emotionally engaged too much.


I am trying to be truthful.

Single sentence line

The speaker is highlight the positive as well as the negative aspects of love. By doing so, she emphasises how important it is to be honest due to the word choice of "truthful".

This is a turning point in the poem as from now on the vocabulary of love becomes more threatening.


Not a cute card or a kissogram.

Single sentence line

Duffy again rejects the tradtitional symbols of love as they do not reveal the full complexity of it.


Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips.


Just as eating an onion can have an after taste that lasts for a very long time, so too can a "fierce kiss" have an impact on a person's emotional wellbeing. The kiss is "fierce" as it causes people to fall in love and create a bond. When this bond is broken, the person going through the heartbreak can be emotionally traumatised for a very long time.


Possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are

Word choice/Contrast

"possessive" shows the negative aspect of love as it suggests a relationship which is controlling and full of jealousy which contrasts to:

"faithful" which shows the rather positive aspect of love which suggests honestly and loyality in a relationship.


Take it.


Duffy reaches a climax and becomes agitated by the fact that the ricipient is not willing to accept the gift therefore, she is forcing them to accept it.


Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring


Duffy suggests that some relationships end up with marriage which she sees as the worst possible ending. This is because she compares the white rings of onion to a wedding ring as they are similar in shape. "Shrink" suggests that marriage limits a persons freedom by as the relationship becomes more serious.



Single word line

The speaker is angry that her gift has been rejected so much that her tone become threatening as is suggeste by the word "lethal" which has connontations of death and danger.


Its scent will cling to your fingers


Just as the smell of an onion lasts for a long time so too does a heartbreak as it is emotionally traumatising.

"Scent" suggests perfume that one of the lovers used to wear implying that the memories of the relationship will remain with the lovers forever.

"Cling" suggests that the love between the partners will be hard to forget and will linger on.


cling to your knife

Word Choice/Symbolism/Emphatic Position

"knife" implies that words can cut into people and can also cause them pain therefore, implying that words are also a weapon.



~ love
~ damaged relationships
~ change