An alternative tone is found within Comprehensive; however the theme of misplacement is also evident. These verses depict passages of the lives of young boys from distinctive ethnical backgrounds; one being British and raised in the United Kingdom, the other being Muslim who has moved to Britain from Africa with his family. The poem compares and contrasts their lives and differences as each verse rotates their personas. This is an effective technique – through this style, we can identify how their personalities are divaricated from one another.
For example, we can analyze the opening line: “Tutumantu is like hopscotch, Kwani-kwani is like hide-and-seek” – the impression is gained that the boy is still adjusting to his new surroundings, behaving comparatively as he seeks to acclimatize to life in Britain. The second verse introduces Wayne, who takes interest in “Paki-bashing”, controversially violent entertainment (‘I Spit on Your Grave’) and football (‘Arsenal’ football club).
Both are worlds away from similarity and Wayne displays racist tendencies here that were a problem during the mid-1980’s, suggesting that people of different cultures may find themselves feeling misplaced in such an environment. Muslims in this society had many problems adapting to the disjointed fundamentals at the time. In the sixth verse, reference is made to the fact that “Some of them wear turbans in class” and that it was hard not to make fun of them. As the majority of people here are white, those from divergent cultures are often alone and seemingly out of place.
This is supported in the same verse as the character claims “but they’re different from us”, and suggests to the reader that not only are the Muslim community finding it difficult to fit in; the British seem at a loss to accept them as well. The discriminative attitude is also shown when the persona affirms that “There was murder” when his sister went out with “one” of them. Here we see a family’s intolerable perspective on Muslims, as well as ignorance, as referring to a person from another culture as “one” shows that many are blind towards finding a way of living alongside each other.
This type of misplacement in Comprehensive is mostly unrelated to the nature found in The Dolphins. The latter of these displays forced captivity; dolphins cannot fight being trapped and trained in an aquarium to perform, while Comprehensive represents an actual fight against the feelings of misplacement in the community. In this poem, it is apparent that those from a Muslim background are making a valiant effort to speak in proper formal English, while those who are accustomed to living in the United Kingdom frequently use slang terminology (“I like Madness.
The lead singer’s dead good”). The Muslims are shown as trying to live and think positively (“I have hope and am ambitious”) and this is a credible demeanour to have in any situation and will have helped in their upward struggle to grow comfortable with their new surroundings. Also, these people see hope in succeeding, while the persona in the dolphins has a contrasting sentiment, portrayed many times, particularly in the line “There is a plastic toy. There is no hope”.
One similarity between the two texts is that the personas who lead the poem felt comfortable within their previous climates. Prior to transmigrating to Britain, the character from Comprehensive resided in Africa, and seemed far happier there. This is shown as the character expresses that “We talk about the things we used to do in Africa and then we are happy”. The quote shows that the character finds comfort in thinking of retrospective times in life to make it easier to get by.
Looking back at The Dolphins and their experiences being circus trained, it can be confidently said that they favoured the freedom of the ocean to the place where they would spend the rest of their lives. A memory of a better time was also revisited in this poem, albeit in a more longing and downbeat tone (“We see our silver skin flash by like memory of somewhere else”) which confirms that they missed the lives they once led. In conclusion, Carol Ann Duffy has created two notably distinct personas and conveyed a realistic interpretation of how that character would feel, being placed in that corresponding situation.
The theme of misplacement was a common point within the poems, as the characters often voiced their concerns at the problems and positions they had been put in. This was far more prominent in The Dolphins, which would make the majority of the poems readers sympathetic towards the dolphins being enclosed. Sympathy is not really a case in Comprehensive, as there is a stronger element of hope for the character who is attempting to fit in. Based on this opinion, I believe The Dolphins serves as a more effective representation of misplacement.