Gwen Harwood: Changing of the Self

Topics: August Strindberg, Death, Consciousness Pages: 4 (1182 words) Published: October 8, 1999
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....

References: to time and transience fill these verses. Intervening with the many allusions to nature we see constant movement and change; "since there is no more to taste
Father we pick our last / fruits of the temporal." But this time the approach is less seeking, more slow and uncommitted, reflecting the calmness and control acquired by experience.

More than death itself, Harwood 's poetry shows how many people fail to accept death. Their belief in immortality and fear of the end is also portrayed
in Nightfall. Although when the subject of the poem is death, the words describe life, as if reluctant to face up to reality. The images are of suburbs, lights, birds and trees. Even with so many experiences, many of us will forever be ignorant seems to be the truth ringing perpetually though Harwood 's verses.

As we can gather from the examples, Gwen Harwood uses language to create dynamic backgrounds and images to subtly delineate the changes experienced by the persona in the poems. Sometimes the characters themselves are not aware of these changes but the readers are able to appreciate them with the aid of skill Harwood posses in using language to such great measures.
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