The narrator imagines her mother’s life before she was born. The speaker says the mother was her happiest in the 10 years before she was born. She remembers glimpses of her childhood. She realises her mother was deprived of her happiness and glamour after she was born.

Ideas and Themes:

  • Family relationships
  • Memory


  • Begins and ends with mother on pavement, at start its with friends but at end its with her. Showing the differences
  • First 3 stanzas start of with a reminder of distance between poet and mother’s youth


  • 4 equal stanzas which are 5 lines each. Consistent form reflects steady passages of time.


  • Your polka dot dress blows round your legs. Marilyn.”– compares mother to Marilyn Monroe who later committed suicide possibly foreshadowing unhappiness to come.
  • “the thought of me doesn’t occur”- possible jealousy
  • “the fizzy movie tomorrows”- showing the life her mother could’ve lived without her
  • “Before you were mine your Ma stands at the close”- Poet’s mother had freedom but was also restrained by her own mother showing a controlling relationship
  • “You reckon it’s worth it”- she lived a care free life before her daughter was born
  • “my loud possessive yell was the best one, eh?”- the baby was a demanding one on one that was hard to control. “eh?” creates a conversational tone showing the close relations they had
  • “high heeled red shoes relics, now your ghost clatters” relics are ancient items of the past like her mother’s glamour but “ghost” indicates how it will never return
  • “whose small bites on your neck, sweetheart”- something a mother would say to a child but its reversed showing they had a different relationship and are more close
  • “from the wrong pavement”- contrasts with “right path” earlier on showing she may have made the wrong choice
  • “somewhere in Scotland, before I was born” caesura emphasizes the turning point in her birth
  • “sparkle and waltz and laugh”- her mother had many characteristics, this shows how she looked up to her as a role model
  • “before you were mine” possessive language emphasizes the difference between them now and afterwards

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "‘Before you were mine’ by Carol Ann Duffy: Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,
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