David Malouf and William Wordsworth

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Mankind’s changing relationship with the natural world is shaped by both context and values.

A man’s relationship with the natural world is largely influenced by his historical and cultural context. This is reflected in two texts, Wordsworth’s poem ‘The Solitary Reaper’ and the novel ‘An Imaginary Life’ by David Malouf. Through themes such as the power of nature and childhood as well as various techniques, the composers explore how man’s changing relationship with the natural world is determined by their contexts and background. Wordsworth’s texts are influenced by the 18th century Romantic Movement and issues such as industrialisation and conformity. Whereas Malouf writes of 1st century Roman period, that is greatly influenced by his negative view of man’s relationship with the wild in the 20th century.

The child is the father of the man is the belief a grown man can learn from a child’s perception of nature. These beliefs are reinforced in both texts. In the ‘Solitary Reaper’ the ‘Highland Lass’ is portrayed as a compounding image of solitude, who is closer, and one with nature and does not disturb its natural patterns. “Stop here or gently pass” indicated how the poet considers her close to nature and wholly attuned to its daily patterns that would appeal to the Romantics of Wordsworth’s background who appreciated harmony in nature. Similarly in ‘An Imaginary Life’, Malouf presents the child as part of nature around him, as seen in the Childs ability to adapt to the harsh temperatures in the winter. The descriptive language of the child “He seems unaware of the cold. His body keeps its colour, his hands and feet are un-numb” further displays how the child has a strong connection and is one with nature. The capitalisation of the child is significant for Ovid, as he now knows the child is real and Ovid has the opportunity to learn from the child’s relationship with nature. So it is clear how the simplicity and pure mind of a child creates a closer...
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