Form and Structure

The poem consists of nine equal quatrain stanzas, with each stanza measuring four lines. Each stanza contains information about how many people women are providing for. Despite the structure staying the same, but the content of each demands increasing spacing, this is done to reflect the huge expectations placed on women to provide for those relying on them and the world. With the number of people women are providing for increasing, as the poem grows in length.

There are many aspects that are explored within the poem in order of stanzas, The domestic life of woman, Agriculture and farming, medieval and the Renaissance, industrialising society, urbanisation, transportation, the 21st century, the exploitation of nature, pushing the limits and working to death, the end of women.


The poem explores women providing for others in society, with the role of the mother expanding to unmanageable proportions, resulting in death. Duffy suggests that woman have been forced to learn to take on responsibility in for the whole of society. Duffy exaggerates this by constantly increasing the amount people until the woman is worked to death. Duffy aims for the woman to represent Mother Nature, as well as all women in society and in history.

With Duffy reversing the stereotypes of “motherhood and stay at home mothers having an easier life”, and showing all women( working or staying at home) as having responsibilities to provide and care for the world.

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