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Gwen Harwood: Changing of the Self

Uploaded by kankean_au on Apr 18, 2001

In Gwen Harwood’s poetry, the changes in an individual’s perspective and attitudes towards situations, surroundings and, therefore transformations in themselves, are brought on by external influences, usually in the form of a person or an event. These changes are either results of a dramatic realisation, as seen with shattering of a child’s hopes in The Glass Jar, or a melancholy and gradual process, where a series of not so obvious discoveries produces similar reformation. An example of the later case would be Nightfall, the second section of Father and Child, where the persona refers to her forty years of life causing "maturation". For the most part these changes are not narrated directly but are represented by using dynamic language techniques to illustrate constant change in the universe of the poem.

One of the significant aspects of "changing self" covered in Harwood’s poems is the process in which, a child’s innocent mind, like a blank page, is inked and tainted by some experience. Their hopes, dreams, beliefs, founded on their naive perspective of life, and the way the young restyle themselves consciously or subconsciously as they make new discoveries are all explored.

In the poem The Glass Jar we witness the heart-wrenching episode in a little boy’s life, where he is made to discover a distressing reality. Putting his faith first in a monstrance and then in his own mother, he finds himself being betrayed by both. With the many allusions to nature \(for example the personification of the sun and references to animals and woods and so on\) Gwen Harwood constructs a dynamic backdrop which allow the responder to dwell on the subtle shifts in the child’s personality. The setting is the terrain of nightmares and dreams, where conscious will is suppressed and the reigns are handed to the subconscious mind.

By making subtle changes in the ways dreams are portrayed, she shows us that the boy has been changed by his experiences. Before "the betrayals" the dreams are quite indefinite, relying on incomplete images of pincers, claws and fangs to represent the horror. The lines, "His sidelong violence summoned/ fiends whose mosaic vision saw/ his heart entire" are literal indications of his incapability to comprehend what is happening to him. Then he wakes and attempts to seek comfort from the monstrance. His hopes for a miracle, brought on by his innocence, "fell headlong from its eagle height." Then he...

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Uploaded by:   kankean_au

Date:   04/18/2001

Category:   Poetry

Length:   5 pages (1,147 words)

Views:   2127

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