Gwen Harwood Essay

954 Words4 Pages
Gwen Harwood’s poetry is very powerful for its ability to question the social conventions of its time, positioning the reader to see things in new ways. During the 1960’s, a wave of feminism swept across Australian society, challenging the dominant patriarchal ideologies of the time. Gwen Harwood’s poems ‘Burning Sappho’ and ‘Suburban Sonnet’ are two texts that challenge the dominant image of the happy, gentle, but ultimately subservient housewife. Instead, ‘Burning Sappho’ is powerful in constructing the mother as violent to reject the restraints placed on her by society, whilst Suburban Sonnet addresses the mental impact of the female gender’s confinement to the maternal and domestic sphere. Harwood employs a range of language and…show more content…
Instead, the alliteration of “pours prussic acid” presents sharp diction to emphasise the concept of violence in regards to the mother. As a result, the reader is positioned to reassess the image of the caring, gentle mother, instead seeing the resulting emotionally repressed women as a direct reaction to the constraints placed on her gender. Language and imagery plays a dramatic role in portraying relationships and feelings/thoughts of the persona. Whilst in ‘Burning Sappho,’ the mother’s attitude towards tasks is portrayed as emotionless (“the child is fed, the dishes are washed, the clothes are ironed and aired,”), language is utilised within ‘Suburban Sonnet’ to construct the mother’s mental state and situation as dire. “Zest and Love drain out with soapy water.” The use of two personal, passionate adjectives and the depiction of them being physically overcome by soapy water directly link the mother’s loss of feelings and fiery emotion to the household chores and duties. For example, she “scours crusted milk,” as a part of her role as mother and housewife as the reader is positioned to reject this requirement as a result of the huge impact to her quality of life (“Veins ache”). The literal image of a dead mouse symbolises the mother’s situation as the ‘soft corpse’ directly represents the mother, that is, emotionally dead as a result of the entrapment by society. The reader is positioned to fully
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