Stealing summary and analysis by Carol Ann Duffy


The poem “Stealing” was written by ‘Carol Ann Duffy’. It was first published in 1987 in the collection “Selling Manhattan”.As we have seen the post-war situation in the poem,where people had been so aimless, hopeless, and jobless that they didn’t have any idea about life, that is what to do and what not to do.

Table of Contents


  • It deals with the situation of the people after the second world war (effects of post-world war)
  • Due to which loss of jobs was seen – UNEMPLOYMENT
  • DEGRADATION of the society was seen
  • It is a free-verse poem – no rhyme, no meter which also indicates the disorder of the poem of the English country of that time period.
  • It is a dramatic monologue – single speaker, silent listener and abrupt starting from the middle of the scenario
  • HYPOPHORA (figure of speech, the speaker will pose a question and then answers the question)


  • Unemployment
  • Hopelessness
  • Failure
  • Isolation
  • Alienation


  • The stanza starts with a question and the whole poem ends with its answer, so we find a ‘hypophora’. The most unusual thing the poet ever stole was a snowman. At midnight (which symbolises the darkness of people’s life due to unemployment, and negative feelings) the snowman looked magnificent, tall and white, and was standing mute (symbolising “alienation”) under the moon.
  • The poetess wanted the snowman to be her mate (symbolize ‘loneliness’, as she was alone). As she knew that after all, it was just the snowman with the cold mind and slice of ice like her and the English people too.
  • She then started stealing with the head of the Snowman.
  • In the second stanza, Carol Ann Duffy says that ‘better off dead than giving in’, she wants to take everything that she desires as there was nothing left for her in this life of unemployment and loneliness. ‘YOU WANT’ indicates joblessness, no enjoyment, and no fulfilment.
  • The Snowman weight a ton (1000kg)
  • Its torse (the main part of the body from shoulder to waist) was frozen and as she was holding it attached to her chest, she could feel the fierce chill (coldness) passing through her gut.
  • She knew that the children would cry in the morning as she stole their snowman but still, she did it, exclaiming that “LIFE’S TOUGH” and they have to go through this. “Life’s tough” indicates unemployment, feeling lessness, hard times, etc.
  • Sometimes, she steal things, she doesn’t need. She rides cars to nowhere, she breaks into houses just to have a look. She does this as she had ample of time to waste.
  • She compares herself to a mucky ghost (dirty unearthly being) which symbolizes that she will prefer herself to be a ghost as she is completely detached from the human society. She creates a mess everywhere she goes and also had stolen a camera.
  • She was watching her gloved (hand gloves) hand opening the doorknob(lock) and found a strange bedroom (maybe it was her room). When she looked at the ‘Mirrors’, she showed a reflection of herself and sighs – “Aah” that maybe she could not recognize herself. That, she is changed now and become a thief. What she was before and what she had become now(thief).
  • It took some time to reassemble the Snowman in the yard but it didn’t look the same. So, she took a run and booted (to kick something hard with the foot) the snowman, again and again until her breath ripped out in rags.
  • She thinks it was useless(silly) to steal the Snowman now, as she was standing among the lumps of the snow being sick of the world (cold-hearted people).
  • In the last stanza, Carol says that she was so bored that she could eat herself.
  • Once she stole a guitar and she thought of learning to play it. She also stole a bust of Shakespeare and flogged (beat harshly) it. But for her ‘SNOWMAN’ was the strangest thing she ever stole in her life.
  • At the end, she questions the reader that “you don’t understand a word I’m saying, do you?”. Alienation had been indicated here, as nobody cares about anyone’s opinion.


  • As we have seen the post-war situation in the poem, “STEALING” by Carol Ann Duffy, where people had been so aimless, hopeless, and jobless that they didn’t have any idea about life, that is what to do and what not to do.
  • They had become lonely, desperate to do anything and every silly thing to pass their time.
  • They had become detached from the human society as they can’t see anything coming good in their way. Life had become miserable for the English people at that time.
  • They couldn’t accept the change within themselves and could not accept the reality of unemployment and had become so lonely and alienated from the society and their personal life too.
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