Rubbish At Adultery By Sophie Hannah

Rubbish At Adultery is told by the “other woman”. The narrator is a woman sleeping with a guy who is cheating on his wife. The poem is highly amusing and really focuses on the narrator’s annoyance with her lover’s guilty tendencies. Although the narrator seems quite cutthroat and domineering throughout the poem and it really seems like she is done with the whole affair. She does show a softening in the last stanza and perhaps this shows that her feelings for this man are deeper than she would ever truly let herself admit. It isn’t known whether this poem is autobiographical or not! I would like to think it isn’t as Hannah is married now herself! But who knows, perhaps it is supposed to act as a commentary on adulterous relationships and how they are doomed to failure.


Form and Tone

The poem is separated into four stanzas. Each stanza contains six lines. The line length is similar throughout the poem but the amount of syllables varies from line to line giving the poem a stilted feel, this possibly helps to represent the up and down nature of having an affair. The subject of the poem is comedic but it’s really black comedy. The tone therefore is light hearted but a little shocking in places. Rhyme is used throughout the poem and this helps to emphasise the humorous nature of the poem. The rhyme pattern for the first two stanzas utilises end rhymes every other line (-A-A-A) but in the final stanza it appears to be (ABABAB) although some of the rhymes throughout are half rhymes.


Rubbish At Adultery Analysis

First Stanza

Right from the first line we see the narrator’s apathy towards the person they are in a relationship with. It is stated at the end of this stanza that the person the narrator is referring to has a wife and children so for the purpose of convenience we will assume that the narrator is a woman and the person she is seeing is a man. There is no evidence that contravenes this. Clearly the affair that is happening has become a drag for the person who would be the “other woman” the reason for her frustration is that the guy she is seeing clearly feels really guilty about his actions. And why wouldn’t he? With a wife and family he isn’t really being fair on them by carrying on the affair.

However this suggests that the narrator is possibly a thrill-seeker? That she was in it for the passion and now that the reality of being with a married man has kicked in she is bored by it. There is a real feeling of disdain in this stanza. It’s really as if she is past caring. In my head when I read this stanza I imagined a woman holding a phone away from her head whilst her man rambled on about how bad he feels. This is the mood that has been created by Hannah.


Second Stanza

The first line of this stanza reveals a lot about our narrator. She doesn’t want this man forever. She is focused on the now. The suggestion here that the worries that the man feels are in his head. She has not put pressure on him. Quite the opposite in fact. She wants passion as you can see she tells him “I’d settle for a kiss.” I think that she doesn’t want to hear him talk about his life at home because it makes her feel guilty. she doesn’t want to hear about the fact that he has a family. Maybe then it all becomes real and she has to feel guilty too. Although she certainly doesn’t come across as feeling guilty, at least no up until this point. If anything I would say she is rather blasé to the concept of this man having a wife and kids at home.

The narrator is not very sympathetic however the strength of the poem is such that it doesn’t require a readers sympathy in order to make them want to read on. It is easy to hold a person’s interest with a character that is good natured, but here we see quite a cold character and yet Hannah still creates a sense of intrigue.


Third Stanza

The first two lines seem consolatory at first, but are they really? I don’t think so. I think more likely they are dripping in sarcasm and made to belittle the man. It is clear that in this relationship she is the dominant one. She clearly doesn’t mind running roughshod over his feelings! The next two lines  describe herself. She is lifting herself up and putting him down. Her view of him is somebody who is whiny, wounded and tortured. She makes him sound pathetic. Her views of herself is that she is fun loving, a thrill seeker. Although it would seem at least for the woman that the relationship has run its course. She questions what they are doing together as they clearly don’t want the same things. It would appear she has become bored of him and is effectively giving him the “elbow”.


Fourth Stanza

Once again we see the insults being thrown at her lover. The narrator comes across as somebody that is very emotionally abusive. Although it’s still hard to feel sorry for the guy as he is cheating on his wife! The narrator points out what is probably the biggest irony in this situation the fact that her lover is terrible at committing adultery as per the title of the poem but is also pretty terrible at being faithful too. Her advice is pretty sound as she encourages him to commit to one path way and then follow through. It sounds to me like she is not fussy whether she continues seeing him or not but if she does continue the relationship she doesn’t want it to be rubbish anymore.

Here is a woman that craves passion and she is in a relationship with a damp squib. She needs him to man up or to go back to his marriage. The fact that she wants him to do it properly no matter what he chooses perhaps shows a slight softening. Certainly the term “git” though obviously an insult has a certain level of playfulness in it. Gone is the sarcasm and replaced with an almost imperceptibly softer tone. I think she understands why he is like that but if he wants to continue she needs to have her needs fulfilled.


About Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is a Manchester born poet who studied at the University of Manchester. Her style is similar to that of Wendy Cope mixed with the surrealism of Lewis Carrol. The subject for her poems is usually deeply personal and can often be considered to be autobiographical in nature. She often uses humour and wit in her poetry giving them an amusing feel (as is the case with this poem) Her poems are studied as part of the GCSE and A-level syllabus in the UK. To date she has nine poetry collections although some of these are in pamphlet form. She also dabbles in fiction and translations. She is an increasingly successful author as well. Her 2008 novel “The Point of Rescue” was turned into a TV film.

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  • Avatar nifana santhirakumar says:

    the first part is wrong how does the poem have 3 lines and its not a free verse!!!!!

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      You are absolutely correct on both counts, the writer is an idiot (I’m allowed to say that as it was me.) I don’t know what I was thinking, clearly wrong! Thank you for picking up on it. I have amended accordingly.

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