Gwen Harwood Essay
MODULE B: GWEN HARWOOD
Opportunities for an individual to develop understanding of themselves stem from the experiences attained on their journey through life. The elements which contribute to life are explored throughout Gwen Harwood’s poems, At Mornington and Mother Who Gave Me Life, where the recollection of various events are presented as influences on the individual’s perception of the continuity of life. Both poems examine the connections between people and death in relation to personal connections with the persona’s father or mother. By encompassing aspects of human nature and life’s journey, Harwood addresses memories and relationships which contribute to one’s awareness of life.
Memories and meandering thoughts, related to
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The parallel image of the “fabric of marvels” being reduced to the “little towel” raises the notion that whilst death may have brought a physical end to the persona’s mother’s life she remains a marvel of creation as the persona’s memories of her live on. The poem ends with the ‘fine linen’ recalling the memories of a typical childhood scene where the persona’s mother is calling for her to have dinner “as darkness falls on my father’s house.” This biblical reference to the House of the Lord, combined with the coming of darkness, reminds the reader of the inevitable ending of life and the respective movement into heaven. As the second section of Father and Child draws to a close, it is evident that the persona has grown to understand that she has limited time left with her father. The significance of Nightfall as the title of the second section, when considering the daybreak setting of Barn Owl, reinforces this. Sunrise symbolises youth whilst nightfall, in comparison, suggests an ending which implies death, a concept that the adult persona is beginning to acknowledge it as part of life.
A particular instance in life can conjure different memories of the past as in At Mornington where the persona is drawn into recollections of childhood experiences with her father while standing by the graveside of her friend’s parents. A positive image of the father and child