This poem comes from the collection Mean Time, published in 1993. It is thought that it provided the inspiration for Duffy’s first themed collection of poetry The World’s Wife (1999). In the collection she considers the often neglected women behind some of the most iconic male figures from history, literature and legend.
The speaker of this dramatic monologue is the fictional Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
Jilted by her lover, Miss Havisham spends the rest of her life decaying in her wedding dress amid the remnants of her wedding breakfast, grooming her beautiful niece Estella to exact revenge on all men.
Duffy has said that she titled the poem Havisham rather than Miss Havisham to separate the character from Dicken’s version – this is Duffy’s creation.
Other interpretations of the title are possible:
- the removal of Miss also removes reference to the character’s gender – it could be argued she no longer feels a woman
- jilted on her wedding day she is in limbo – somewhere between a Miss and a Mrs, she is not actually either and has lost her role in life
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