The Dolphins Essay

1259 WordsOct 17, 20146 Pages
In an interesting departure, Duffy writes a dramatic monologue in the voice of a dolphin. In some measure one might regard it as a poem that tunes in to a frequency only normally perceived by the very creatures that form its subject. It is allied in this sense to the work of the Australian poet, Les Murray whose Translations from the Natural World capture the voice of creatures as Duffy does here. The dolphin is well known as a befriender of human beings in trouble at sea. It is ironic that those same human beings should be their abductors. A warm-blooded mammal, the dolphin is very close to humans in genetic terms. It is also a sophisticated communicator; scientists have observed a linguistic system in what amount to their utterances. In the light of this, it seems appropriate that Duffy should give voice to the creature that seems to have a real language. The dolphin begins by speaking in the second person. This has the effect of creating a sense of familiarity and affinity between the reader and the creature. However, all that it says beyond the third line of the poem is in the first person plural. This is striking because it leaps into the world of dolphins forced to speak from their perspective about the effects of imprisonment by humans. It uses images of what we might perceive as being associated with freedom and joy in 'swim' and 'dance' but this impression is modified and complicated by the fact that the dolphins' 'world' is the pool in which they perform and not the expansive ocean. There is both pathos and dignity detectable in its voice when it speaks of being in its element but 'not free'. This tension introduces a conflict that is articulated in the remainder of the poem, the dolphins' natural affinity with humans and the latter's propensity for causing misery. The 'constant flowing guilt' refers to the necessity in an artificially created aquatic

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