In the first line of the poem, it can be seen that Duffy portrays Mrs Fraud as being a very assertive and outspoken speaker, through the opening word “Ladies”. This shows Mrs Freud to be a very authoritative woman who demands respect, as she is able to address all the women at the rally at the same time. When one considers the level of authority and respect that Sigmund Freud himself gained through the popularity of his theories and findings, it can be assumed that Duffy intentionally portrays Mrs Freud in this manner to show that she too has her own respectable identity outside the marriage like her husband.

The pause after the word also presents Mrs Freud as a calm and rather mature individual, suggesting that she is far older and more experienced than the audience of women that she is addressing. As one reads the poem further, it can be seen that Duffy through Mrs Freud, mocks and criticizes both male sexuality and Freud himself in a very humorous manner, thus effectively killing two birds with one stone.

This is seen through Duffy’s employment of colloquial words such as “the night crawler” and ” pork sword”, in reference to the various nicknames men give their penises’, throughout the entirety of the poem. This in combination with the poems’ structure being in the form of a sonnet, and Duffy’s clever use of alliteration and assonance through other words such as “the dick, prick, dipstick and wick”, gives the poem the feel of a nursery school rhyme, whilst also emphasizing the comical attitude that Mrs Freud maintains throughout her presentation.

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Ultimate Irony

It can also be said that this contrasts the original suggestion of Mrs Freud as a mature individual, however , some critics argue that her attitude merely reflects her own opinion and view of men, and the way in which they express their sexuality, her husband not being any different. The last few lines of the poem can be said to be very effective in portraying the ferocity at which Mrs Freud has scathingly attacked the subject of male sexuality, leaving very little room for sympathy.

The use of the word penis near the end of the poem, and Mrs Freud’s description of it as “average” and “not pretty”, can be said to show Mrs Fraud as getting to the heart of the issue, whilst at the same time, this clearly illustrates her as having stripped masculinity and her husband of their somewhat tough layers. The later personification of the penis as having an “envious solitary eye” and the following words “one’s feeling of pity”, is a twist on Freud’s “penis envy” theory, something that according to Mary Greens’ York Notes Advanced (2007), a feminist would say Duffy does “cleverly”.

This theory states that adolescent girls are envious of men due to them having a penis, and the use of the metaphor “envious solitary eye”, suggests that it is rather men who are envious of women, and the second quote implies that Mrs Freud herself, pities her husband and all other men who believe otherwise.


Peter Cash,2002, Carol Ann Duffy: “The ultimate irony is that Midas possessed a magic touch all along: namely, the physical touch which had the power to transform her into a loving wife”, www. le. ac. uk/engassoc/publications/bookmarks/58. pdf

Mary Green, 2007, York Notes Advanced (

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Ultimate Irony. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

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