In both Pugh and Duffy, youth is often presented as something innocent that is taken away too soon, whether intentionally or non- intentionally. They both also present youth as the product of their environment, which often isn’t a good thing.
In Lizzie 6, Duffy seems keen to present the youth of this poem (Lizzie) as very innocent and helpless. She does this straight away through the title, which could be interpreted as the age of this victim, showing the reader straight away how young and naïve she must be although it could also represent the abusers number of victims-this would also emphasise Lizzie’s helplessness being at the hands of an experienced abuser and would make the reader empathise with her fragility even more. This fragility is shown through the use of language such as “play” and “wood” which has innocent and childlike connotations, despite “wood” being turned into a sexual reference- perhaps symbolising how the abuser is taking Lizzie’s innocence and turning it into something more sinister. The structure of Lizzie 6 also has a twisted nursery rhyme like feel, given the poem a hugely sinister tone and may also draw attention to Lizzie’s lost innocence.
The vulnerability of Lizzie is further displayed through the use of language such as “bare” and “afraid” showing how exposed she is. This is written in a typeface which emulates child-like handwriting, which juxtaposed with harsh and emotionless typeface of the abuser, reflects the polarity of the two characters visually and the lack of feeling from the abuser. The unembellished language of the abusers sentences also further emphasises this lack of care or feeling for Lizzie. Her innocence is further magnified by Duffy through the juxtaposition of her naivety with the brutality of the abuser. This is shown through the commanding imperative verbs he uses “bend over that chair” showing his violent and cruel use of his dominant position as well as the repetition of the intimidating “I’ll give you” suggesting he has complete control of the situation.
The lost innocence that Duffy portrays in Lizzie 6, showing how Lizzie’s childhood is being forcibly taken away, is something Pugh also writes about in Paradise for the children- although in this, the children seem eager to grow up, “they hanker for their freedom”. The lack of freedom that the children face in this poem is due to their mother “glimpsing them through the gaps of light” out of care, rather different from the lack of freedom Lizzie faces at the hands of her abuser. The monotonous structure of the poem and strict rhyme scheme perhaps reflects the restraints on Lizzie’s life, which directly compared to paradise for the children wherein the rhyme scheme is much less restrained and with mainly half rhymes being employed such as “fan” and “garden” shows how the children here do in fact lead a much more open lives without the restraints that Lizzie has.
The reversal of the phrase “finding and seeking” in paradise for the children further emphasises this freedom that the children do in fact have, putting the focus on the word “seeking” showing how the children are free to explore and find new things despite the constraints of their mothers watch, which “given the choice” they would be without. This shows that even the children in this poem are at the mercy of their parents to an extent, as of course Lizzie is, shown structurally through the 3 lines of text for the abuser compared to Lizzie’s 1 as well as the fact that Lizzie only speaks when asked, showing again how she lacks control of the situation. The relentless questioning could also suggest Lizzie’s lack of privacy, “what are you thinking”- she can’t even have her own thoughts. Its dramatic monologue form also shows the dominance of the abuser and helplessness of the victim.
In comprehensive, Duffy presents the children as rather hopeless and ignorant, and also displays the segregation and racism in youth and the differences between English children and the foreigners despite the ironic title “comprehensive”. The ignorance Duffy displays in comprehensive takes two forms. Firstly through the foreign children who use very simplistic, childlike and largely monosyllabic language “you will like it when we get our own house” to reflect their lack of education in England as of yet. However this lack of education is also extended by Duffy through to the English children who obviously should know better, such as the double negative “She won’t let me do nothing”. The ignorance Duffy displays also takes the form of the narrow minded racism used by English characters such as Wayne, “Paki bashing and Pulling girls knickers down”. Duffy’s use of alliteration of the harsh “p” sound makes it sound like Wayne is spitting the sound out and emphasises his bitter attitude towards foreigners.
Duffy also displays the English children as hopeless with a lack of ambition, “I don’t suppose i’ll get a job”- the use of the word “suppose” makes it sound like Wayne assumes this without even bothering to try, content with blaming it on “them”. The use of such pronouns like “us” and “them”is used by Duffy to magnify the segregation between the nationalities. This lack of ambition is also shown through another character who states “probably work at safeways”- the word “safe” in this showing the lack of risk taken and settlement on a menial job such as this. Someone else in the poem states “no choice really” which could perhaps be Duffy blaming these children’s lack of hope on their environment rather than themselves, with the only adults presented in the poem being a mother who is “bad with her nerves” and Wayne’s father who watches “I spit on your grave” with his son, shown through the use of the pronoun “we”- clearly Duffy is trying to present a lack of appropriate role models for these children. This again suggests that children are at the mercy of their environment and ultimately their parents and adults as shown in Lizzie 6 and paradise for the children.
The hopelessness and lack of opportunities presented in Comprehensive can be compared to a similar feeling Pugh is trying to create in Intercity Lullaby, wherein the boys have to move to London to find work. However they are described as to have had “a long day on the beer”- suggesting that they don’t have much hope and seem to have already given up and the use of the word “slumped” also has connotations of defeatism and weariness- as shown in comprehensive through Wayne “I don’t suppose I’ll get a job”. The phrase “I would give you the choice” in Intercity lullaby again goes back to this idea of lack of opportunities for the children, presented by Duffy and Pugh throughout.
Although the boys in Intercity lullaby must be old enough to work, they are displayed by Pugh as much younger through her language choices such as “boys” and “cradled” which as connotations of babies in a cot rather than fully grown men on a train. This is further shown through the lullaby structure of the poem “lully, lully, lullay” showing the boys need support and comfort, again like little children as well as having the “food their mothers packed”- showing a lack of independence despite their move to London alone. All of this has the effect of the reader feeling more sympathy towards the boys as they are presented as more vulnerable and naïve and almost not ready to move on alone, with Pugh giving them a great sense of innocence.
This is similar to the effect created in Lizzie 6, with her displayed innocence making the audience empathise more with her character. Contrastingly, Wayne in Comprehensive is portrayed through a much harder exterior “games are for kids” and through the list of short sentences which sound angry and forced- this perhaps makes the reader think Wayne is less naïve and innocent when juxtaposed with other children’s more child-like language “Kwani- kwani is like hide-and-seek” and therefore the reader would sympathise with his character less, the opposite effect of Intercity lullaby.
In conclusion, Duffy and Pugh both display childhood as innocent and something that is often taken away to soon, whether intentionally or not. They also both display a lack of choices for the children and how their lives and opinions are shaped by the adults around them- despite these being often bad role models.