Apostrophe is a crucial element of any dramatic monologue, as it gives the poem’s speaker someone to talk to, thereby revealing the speaker's thoughts and feelings . In "Valentine," apostrophe has many effects. On its most basic level, apostrophe increases the poem's authenticity because the speaker interacts with someone that personally impacts them—their lover. Because the significance of such an exchange is palpable, apostrophe also heightens the poem’s stakes, creating tension and anticipation.
Indeed, “Valentine” captures an intimate moment in the speaker’s life—a profession of love—so that the speaker’s statements come across as genuine. The speaker even says, “I am trying to be truthful,” a claim that is both vulnerable and determined, contributing to the speaker's earnest aura. Plus, the fact that the speaker is intent on selecting precisely the right gift reaffirms that this moment is important to them.
Furthermore, apostrophe places the reader in the middle of the speaker’s relationship—the reader effectively becomes the object of the monologue. When the speaker says, “I give you an onion” in the poem’s second line, the reader becomes the recipient of the speaker’s gift. This technique encourages the reader to empathize with the speaker’s lover, building intimacy between the speaker and the reader. Statements such as “Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips” illustrate the level of familiarity that the speaker is able to achieve.
Finally, apostrophe gives rise to remarks that expose the speaker’s true temperament. For example, the speaker opens every multi-line stanza by urging the speaker's lover to accept the gift of an onion. Stanzas 2 and 6 begin with “I give you an onion,” while stanza 3 begins with “Here” (as in, Here, accept it). The speaker opens the final stanza with the poem's most assertive command—“Take it.”
The directives that the speaker gives the lover cast the monologue in a faintly pushy, confrontational light. Consequently, readers might find the speaker aggressive or assume that the speaker is more dominant within the relationship. As the poem comes to a close, the speaker also subtly expresses doubts about the partnership. The onion's “fierce kiss will stay on your lips [...] for as long as we are,” suggesting that the speaker anticipates that this romance will come to an end.
And in line 19, the speaker slyly mentions the possibility of marriage ("Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring"), only to add the phrase “if you like.” This suggests that the longevity of their relationship can't be taken for granted, that it depends on what each lover decides. Thus, apostrophe provides a fuller picture of the speaker by granting the reader unfettered access to the speaker's opinions, emotions, and true intentions.