Gwen Harwood - Expresion of Complex Ideas Through Imagery

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Often in poetry the technique of imagery is relied on heavily to present the reader with a visual stimulus that allows the poet to express a set of complex ideas. Poet Gwen Harwood utilises certain everyday images to illustrate the tendency of society to categorize the roles and expectations of females in the 1950’s. Some of her works such as ‘In the Park’, ‘Suburban Sonnet’ and ‘Dichterlibre’ draw on images of bickering children, household chores and tiresome motherly figures in order for the reader grasp some of the intangible concepts presented in the poems, such as the struggle for female independence in a patriarchal society and the social inequity experienced by the housewives and mothers of the 50’s. Harwood’s poetry gives voice to these drained women and entices the reader to take notice of the restrictions placed on a young mother by society’s expectations.

Harwood’s poem ‘In the Park’ explores the exhausting and all-consuming task of motherhood and the effects that slowly take toll on a mother’s vitality. Throughout the first stanza Harwood uses everyday imagery to give the reader insight into the exhausted nature of the mother. Harwood offers the reader simple yet expressive imagery in line one of the poem, when a mother’s clothes are described as “out of date”, this imagery presents the clothes to the reader as a symbolic view of the woman’s attitude towards her life which is now seen as old, tattered and worn out, not unlike her clothing. After the first line the reader is left with an impression of the mother as being immersed in the past dwelling on the contrast between how her life could have been, and the mundane reality that has come to pass. When the children are introduced into the text the reader is invited into a part of the mother’s life that Harwood presents as a draining, somewhat parasitic addition, where as traditionally the sacred relationship between mother and child is one of great value. The image of two children that “whine...
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