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The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy: A Poetic Summary

The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy: A Poetic Summary

“The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem that tells the story of a hat that is passed down through generations of women in a family. The hat becomes a symbol of the women’s lives and experiences, and through its changing ownership, the poem explores themes of identity, memory, and the passage of time. In this article, we will provide a poetic summary of “The Hat” and explore the deeper meanings behind Duffy’s words.


One of the prominent themes in “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy is the idea of identity and how it can be shaped by external factors. The speaker in the poem describes how the hat, which was once worn by her father, has now become a part of her own identity. She says, “I wear him still, / the dead man’s hat, / to walk the roads / and fields of his land.” This suggests that the hat has become a symbol of her connection to her father and his legacy.

Another theme in the poem is the passage of time and the way in which objects can hold memories and emotions. The speaker describes how the hat has aged over time, becoming “soft as a mouse” and “threadbare.” However, despite its physical deterioration, the hat still holds a powerful emotional significance for the speaker. She says, “I wear it like a memory / or a wish to touch / the past, or to be touched.” This suggests that the hat serves as a tangible link to the past and to the speaker’s own personal history.

Overall, “The Hat” is a poignant exploration of the ways in which objects can hold emotional significance and shape our sense of identity. Through her evocative language and imagery, Duffy captures the complex emotions that can be tied up in even the most seemingly mundane objects.

Tone and Mood

The tone and mood of “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy are both melancholic and nostalgic. The speaker reflects on the memories associated with the hat, which belonged to her father. The tone is wistful as the speaker longs for the past and the comfort of her father’s presence. The mood is somber as the speaker mourns the loss of her father and the passing of time. The imagery of the hat, which is described as “soft as a mouse” and “smelling of smoke and rain,” adds to the nostalgic tone and mood of the poem. Overall, “The Hat” evokes a sense of longing and sadness, as the speaker grapples with the passage of time and the memories of a loved one.


In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, the use of imagery is prevalent throughout the poem. The hat itself is described in vivid detail, with its “black velvet brim” and “white fur” creating a stark contrast. The hat is also personified, with Duffy describing it as having a “mind of its own” and being “full of secrets.” This personification adds to the mysterious and alluring nature of the hat. Additionally, the imagery of the hat being passed down through generations adds to its significance and value. Overall, the use of imagery in “The Hat” helps to create a rich and captivating atmosphere.


Symbolism is a powerful tool in literature, and Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “The Hat” is no exception. The hat itself serves as a symbol for the speaker’s identity and the way she presents herself to the world. The hat is described as “black as a crow” and “wide as a wheel,” which suggests that it is a bold and attention-grabbing accessory. This is fitting, as the speaker seems to use her hat as a way to assert her individuality and stand out from the crowd.

Additionally, the hat can be seen as a symbol for the speaker’s inner thoughts and emotions. When she takes off the hat, she describes feeling “naked” and vulnerable. This suggests that the hat serves as a kind of shield or barrier between the speaker and the outside world. Without it, she is exposed and unprotected.

Overall, the symbolism in “The Hat” adds depth and complexity to the poem. It allows readers to explore themes of identity, self-expression, and vulnerability in a more nuanced way.


The structure of “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy is a combination of free verse and rhyme. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different focus on the hat. The first stanza describes the hat’s physical appearance, while the second stanza delves into the history and memories associated with the hat. The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the present moment and the speaker’s relationship with the hat. The use of enjambment throughout the poem creates a sense of fluidity and movement, mirroring the hat’s journey through time and space. The rhyme scheme is irregular, with occasional slant rhymes and internal rhymes adding to the musicality of the poem. Overall, the structure of “The Hat” enhances the poem’s themes of memory, identity, and the power of objects to hold meaning.

Language and Diction

In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, language and diction play a crucial role in conveying the speaker’s emotions and thoughts. The poem is written in free verse, allowing Duffy to experiment with different forms of language and diction. The use of colloquial language, such as “bloody” and “bugger,” adds a sense of authenticity to the speaker’s voice and emphasizes the rawness of their emotions. Additionally, the repetition of certain phrases, such as “I put it on” and “I took it off,” creates a sense of rhythm and emphasizes the speaker’s internal struggle. Overall, Duffy’s careful use of language and diction adds depth and complexity to the poem, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the speaker’s experience.


In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, the speaker’s hat is personified and given a distinct personality. The hat is described as “a woman’s hat” with a “wide brim” and “a feather or two.” The hat is also portrayed as being proud and confident, as it “sat on the shelf, like a crowned head.” This characterization of the hat adds depth to the poem and allows the reader to connect with the speaker’s attachment to the hat. The hat becomes more than just an accessory, but a symbol of the speaker’s identity and memories.


The setting of “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy is a bustling city street, filled with people going about their daily lives. The speaker describes the scene as “a river of people,” emphasizing the constant movement and flow of the city. The setting is further characterized by the presence of a street performer, who is playing a tune on his accordion. The sound of the accordion adds to the atmosphere of the setting, creating a sense of liveliness and energy. The speaker also notes the presence of a homeless man, who is sitting on the pavement with a hat in front of him. This detail sets the stage for the central conflict of the poem, as the speaker is drawn to the hat and the potential for transformation that it represents. Overall, the setting of “The Hat” is a vivid and dynamic urban landscape, which serves as the backdrop for the speaker’s journey of self-discovery.

Historical Context

The Hat by Carol Ann Duffy was published in 1999, a time when the world was undergoing significant changes. The poem is set in the early 20th century, a time when women were fighting for their rights and equality. The historical context of the poem is important to understand the significance of the hat as a symbol of power and authority. In the early 1900s, hats were an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe, and they were often used to signify social status and class. The hat in the poem represents the power and authority that men held over women during this time. Duffy’s poem is a commentary on the gender roles and power dynamics of the early 20th century, and it highlights the struggles that women faced in their fight for equality.

Analysis of Lines/Stanzas

In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, the poem is divided into three stanzas, each with four lines. The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the hat as a symbol of power and authority. The second stanza describes the hat’s journey through history, from its origins as a symbol of royalty to its use by dictators and oppressors. The third stanza brings the poem back to the present, where the hat is now a symbol of rebellion and resistance.

The repetition of the phrase “the hat” throughout the poem emphasizes its importance and significance. The use of enjambment, where the lines flow into each other without punctuation, creates a sense of continuity and fluidity, reflecting the hat’s journey through time.

The poem’s structure and language also highlight the contrast between the hat’s original purpose as a symbol of power and its current use as a symbol of resistance. The use of imagery, such as “the hat that hung like a hangman’s noose” and “the hat that crowns the clown,” adds depth and complexity to the poem’s meaning.

Overall, “The Hat” is a thought-provoking poem that explores the symbolism and power of an everyday object. Through its structure, language, and imagery, the poem invites readers to consider the ways in which objects can hold meaning and shape our understanding of the world around us.

Interpretation of Meaning

In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, the hat serves as a symbol for the speaker’s identity and the different roles she plays in her life. The hat is described as “black as a crow” and “soft as a kitten,” which suggests that it is both powerful and gentle. The speaker wears the hat to “meetings, funerals, weddings,” indicating that it is a versatile accessory that can be worn in different contexts.

However, the hat also represents the speaker’s desire to hide her true self. She says that she wears it “to keep the cold off my head,” but it is clear that she is using it as a shield to protect herself from the judgments of others. The hat becomes a way for the speaker to play different roles and to present herself in a way that is acceptable to society.

Overall, “The Hat” is a poignant exploration of identity and the ways in which we present ourselves to the world. The hat serves as a powerful symbol for the speaker’s desire to both hide and reveal herself, and the poem invites readers to consider their own relationship to their identities and the masks they wear in different contexts.

Comparison to Other Works

When comparing “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy to other works, one cannot help but notice the similarities to the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella.” Both stories feature a protagonist who is mistreated by their family and longs for a better life. In “Cinderella,” the protagonist is aided by a fairy godmother, while in “The Hat,” the protagonist finds solace in a magical hat.

However, “The Hat” also differs from “Cinderella” in significant ways. While “Cinderella” is a story of romantic love and marriage, “The Hat” is a story of self-discovery and empowerment. The protagonist in “The Hat” learns to embrace her own identity and reject the societal expectations placed upon her.

Additionally, “The Hat” can be compared to other works of feminist literature, such as Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Like these works, “The Hat” explores the limitations placed upon women in society and the struggle for self-expression and independence.

Overall, “The Hat” stands out as a unique and powerful work of poetry that offers a fresh perspective on the themes of identity and empowerment.

Critical Reception

The critical reception of “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy has been overwhelmingly positive. Critics have praised the poem for its vivid imagery and powerful themes of identity and transformation. Many have also noted the poem’s use of symbolism, particularly the hat as a metaphor for the speaker’s changing sense of self. Some critics have even compared the poem to Duffy’s earlier work, noting that “The Hat” represents a new level of maturity and complexity in her writing. Overall, “The Hat” has been widely praised as a masterful example of contemporary poetry.

Author’s Background

Carol Ann Duffy, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1955, is a renowned poet and playwright. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize for her collection Rapture. Duffy was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 2009, becoming the first woman, first Scot, and first openly LGBT person to hold the position. Her poetry often explores themes of love, loss, and identity, and she is known for her use of vivid imagery and powerful language. In “The Hat,” Duffy continues to showcase her talent for crafting evocative and thought-provoking poetry.

Impact and Significance

The impact and significance of “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy lies in its ability to capture the complexities of human relationships and the power dynamics that exist within them. Through the metaphor of a hat, Duffy explores themes of identity, gender, and control. The hat, which is initially a symbol of power and authority, becomes a tool for manipulation and domination as the speaker’s lover uses it to assert his dominance over her. The poem’s final lines, “I wore it like a crown, / the way you said I should,” suggest that the speaker has internalized her lover’s control and has become complicit in her own subjugation. This powerful commentary on the insidious nature of power dynamics in relationships makes “The Hat” a significant and thought-provoking work of poetry.

Personal Reflections

As I read “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, I couldn’t help but reflect on the power of objects to hold memories and emotions. The hat in the poem serves as a symbol of the narrator’s past and the love she once shared with her partner. It’s a physical reminder of a time that has passed, and yet it still holds so much meaning for her.

This made me think about the objects in my own life that hold similar significance. A piece of jewelry from a loved one, a book that I read during a transformative time in my life, or even a simple trinket that reminds me of a happy memory. These objects may seem insignificant to others, but to me, they hold a world of meaning.

“The Hat” also made me reflect on the fleeting nature of time and how we can never truly hold onto the past. The narrator’s hat may bring back memories of a happy time, but it can never bring back what has been lost. It’s a bittersweet reminder that we must cherish the moments we have while we have them.

Overall, “The Hat” is a beautiful and poignant poem that reminds us of the power of objects and the importance of cherishing the moments we have. It’s a reminder to hold onto the memories that matter and to appreciate the present moment.

Social and Political Commentary

In “The Hat” by Carol Ann Duffy, the poet uses the symbol of a hat to comment on the power dynamics in society. The hat, which is initially worn by a man, is passed down to a woman who then uses it to assert her own authority. This shift in power is significant as it challenges traditional gender roles and highlights the potential for women to take control in a male-dominated world. Additionally, the hat serves as a metaphor for the way in which people can use material possessions to elevate their status and gain influence over others. Overall, “The Hat” is a thought-provoking commentary on the complexities of power and gender in society.