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.