Carol Ann Duffy's "Little Red-Cap” and “Delilah"
“During the 1980s, a unique type and style of women-led peace protest strategies emerged that relied on the powerful language, and particularly the powerful imagery of women as a group engaged in an extended protest against nuclear weapons” (LaWare 18). Carol Ann Duffy’s book, The World’s Wife, was first published in Great Britain in 1999, and two of its dramatic monologues similarly rely on the powerful language and imagery of women engaged in a protest against historically patriarchal narratives and male violence. “While some peace encampments [in the 1980s] included men and women, many were women only, including one of the first and longest lasting peace encampments, the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common in Newbury, England, which evolved into and ignited a women’s peace movement” (LaWare 18). “[T]housands of women from Britain and the world… later visited and lived at the camp during its almost twenty years of existence, until the last group of women left in 2000[,]” and while it’s not clear whether Duffy visited the camp, the camp’s strategies of resistance are embedded in two of her poems (LaWare 19). The speakers of “Little Red-Cap” and “Delilah” employ the camp’s strategies of physically embracing a symbol of male violence, subsequently defacing the symbol through an act of creative nonviolence, and finally transforming the symbol’s patriarchal sphere into a space filled with peace and feminine imagery.
First, the speakers of Duffy’s two poems resemble the protestors at Greenham Common who physically embraced a symbol of male violence:
[T]he Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp gained both
national and international attention in December of
1982 when 30,000 women gathered at the Greenham
Common Air Force Base to join hands around the nine
mile perimeter fence[;] Greenham women organized the
action, titled “Embrace the Base” to mark the third
anniversary of the NATO decision to deploy cruise
missiles in Europe. (LaWare 19)
“As one woman present that day explains, ‘hand in hand in hand, for nine miles we formed a living chain to lock in the horrors of war, to stand between them and our world and to say: we will meet your violence with a loving embrace’” (LaWare 29). Likewise, the speakers of “Little Red-Cap” and “Delilah” initially meet the horrors of male violence with a loving embrace. For example, the speaker of “Little Red-Cap”:
went in search of a living bird – white dove –
which flew, straight, from [her] hands to [the
wolf’s] open mouth.
One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
licking his chops. (25-28)
The wolf is assigned a male gender, and by killing a white dove with one bite, he not only kills the dove but the peace it typically symbolizes. This peace is what the...