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To what extent can The Violets be seen as representative of the poetic qualities and concerns of Harwoods work?

Base your discussion on a detailed analysis of this poem and one of the other set poems. (1500 words)

Gwen Harwoods poetry explores the rejuvenating powers of memory, the inexorable nature of time and the adversity of advancing through various stages of human psychological development, particularly those experienced in childhood. The Violets and Father and Child may be seen as indicative of these concerns. Both works encompass the poetic qualities that are characteristic of Harwoods work, via manipulation of which she constructs meaning. These are her use of imagery, symbolism, contrast and juxtaposition and motifs. The manipulation of these techniques creates didactic poetry that examines primarily the progression of the human psyche into a mind capable of reasoning and understanding their environment, namely the power and nature of time over the mortality of humankind.

Harwood takes her fixation with memory and uses her recognisable contrasts in settings and symbolism to convey and construct meaning. The Violets is emblematic of Harwoods work as it explores the nature of memory, particularly its power to revitalise the persona who is undergoing a form of hardship or period of transition into which she searches her memory for guidance. The personas period of transition is symbolised by the rich imagery of the sunset being striped like ice-cream. The use of simile is effective at both describing the dusk as well as alluding to images of childhood (i.e ice-cream). The personas adversity is soothed by recalling, in great detail and specificity, the moments of her childhood that Years cannot move(nor) distort those lamplit presences. The persona appears to be protective of this memory, as she believes time to be the enemy of such memories, which provides her with revitalisation in her period of adversity. This concern is strongly affiliated with Harwoods work as her poetry is highly didactic and in this case the moral conveyed is that of searching your history for guidance in the present, and this idea is also discussed in Father and Child and At Mornington.

Similarly, Harwoods manipulation of poetic devices to construct mean can be indentified in the

personas search for rejuvenation. Her recollection of her childhood is not deliberate and instead triggered by the olfactory of violets. Past and present are interwoven and linked through the flower, which generates a vivid and descriptive recollection of a childhood experience. This experience takes place in Mitchelton, Queensland on a hot afternoon which contrasts with it being dusk, and cold in her present geography. Furthermore, this juxtaposition of settings is symbolic of the growth and blossoming spring violets and sweetness of her childhood in Mitchelton, contrasted with the ashes and loam and the ominous blackbird. The violets themselves symbolise the two ages of the persona, the mature and immature. In her childhood they are blossoming spring violets, in the personas present however they are frail melancholy flowers which is emblematic of her loss of innocence and her experience with psychological development.

The Violets is a moral meditation that reflects upon a childhood experience and elucidates the perhaps once forgotten, yet crucial moment in her psychological development, which is the moment she had her first experience with the loss of time and her failed attempt to rationalise it. Harwood use the motif of time and is recurring in her work as time itself is recurring and inescapable. The child learns that each morning does in fact slip away and the persona experiences the existence of time. The child subconsciously mourns the loss of time and describes it as the thing I cannot grasp or name which reinforces the concept of childhood naivety. Through Harwoods meditative form of writing and motif of time the child can be seen as undergoing a significant yet slightly traumatic step in the process of the childs psychological development.

The Violets can be seen as that of an endorsement of patriarchal family structure, as the persona is nostalgic in remembering the safety and security of her past, which she has now lost in modernity. A feminist reading, however, of The Violets looks into the underlying oppression of women in literary works and their level of conformity to traditional gender roles and subscription to patriarchal family structures. The Violets reception for many in contemporary Australia is that of a condemnation of this family structure as gender roles have altered significantly, and the adversity the persona is undergoing is

a product of a patriarchal family structure. However, she is prompted by the frail melancholy flowers and recalls her first house, in Mitchelton where she finds safety and security in this family structure. Indentation in stanzas allow for the reader to distinguish between the current and past, allowing the voice of the poem to comment in retrospect on past memories. The persona is protective of memories of this patriarchal structure and believes Year cannot move/nor deaths disorientating scale/ distort those lamplit presences. The alliteration of the hard letter d in this quote contrasts significantly with the soft s of I took my supper and was sent/to innocent sleep. This juxtaposition of alliteration used to describe her childhood (soft) and the present persona (hard) indicates that her childhood, in a patriarchal family structure, was perceived to be a world of serenity in contrast to the instability of modern gender roles.

Gwen Harwoods work has a strong obsession with the childhood experience, as has been just witnessed in The Violets. Whilst the majority of her poetry studied in this module deals with the childhood experience, Father and Child best supplements the concepts and poetic qualities derived from The Violets. Father and Child investigates the advancement of human psyche, from the innocence of childhood to the frailty of old age. The poem also observes the human psyches attempt to rationalise and resist the inescapable nature of time. Harwood explores the change in human psyche in this didactic poem and suggests that experiences undergone in childhood shape our lives and morality in the future. The juxtaposition of settings and syntax is used to convey the evolution of the human psyche and morality. Father and Child is separated into two sections, I Barn Owl, which takes place in the personas childhood, and II Nightfall which is set when the persona has presumably reached middle age, as the father is now 80, blind and dying. The age of the child is also reflected in the syntax used in Barn Owl, which is simplistic and short sentenced in contrast with the longer and highly developed vocabulary such as sunset exalts its known/symbols of transience and Be your tears wet? the latter of which being a reference to King Lear which displays the personas higher education.

The psychological development of the persona in Father and Child can be seen as a form of

experiential learning in which the persona learns from her assassination of the barn owl and applies this encounter with death to the impending death of the personas father. The gender of the persona is unknown, which brings universality to the poem, allowing the reader to more easily relate to the character. The philosophy of Carl Jung stresses that humans experience the unconscious through symbols encountered in all aspects of life, and the psyche can only develop by recognizing these symbols and learning from them. Jungian readings of Father and Child places emphasis on the persona learning the consequences of death, which the child believed clean and final and identifying the symbolism by applying this wisdom to the impending death of the personas father. Similarly, in Nightfall where the persona states that sunset exalts its know/symbols of transience she is identifying the symbolism of sunset whilst taking her last walk with her father before his passing away.

Harwoods has a fascination with the psychological evolution of childhood, and frequently uses explicit imagery in her poetry to highlight the trauma the child is undergoing. Father and Child utilises this imagery and assonance to construct a sense of brutality caused by the shooting of the owl. The owl was an obscene/bundle of stuff that dropped,/and dribbled through loose straw/tangling in bowels, as observed in The Violets Harwood uses assonance of hard letters as shown in bold, which is more confrontational than using soft assonance, clearly Harwood is intending to make the reader uncomfortable. The specificity and modality of the description also presents a disturbing visual image, confronting both the child and reader, and demonstrating the trauma involved in the loss of life. Through the manipulation of these techniques the reader and persona is confronted with the reality of death, which is a common concern explored in Harwoods work

The Violets and Father and Child may be seen as representational of Gwen Harwoods concerns primarily the rejuvenating powers of memory, the unrelenting and remorseless nature of time and the adversity of advancing through various stages of human psychological development, predominantly those experienced in childhood. As discussed, both works encompass the manipulation of poetic devices including; symbolism, juxtaposition of settings, the motif of time, and indentation of stanzas that are

characteristic of Harwoods work and assist in constructing meaning. Gwen Harwoods poetry is didactic and examines primarily the progression of the human psyche into a mind capable of reasoning and understanding their surroundings, principally the authority and nature of time over the mortality of humankind.

Word Count: 1487 BY JAMES STILL YEAR 12 HARWOOD ASSESSMENT MS BUTTERWORTH

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