Harwood's Poetry - a Valediction, Father and Child and the Violets

1477 Words Mar 4th, 2011 6 Pages
What meaning have you derived from Harwood’s poetry? Refer to 3 poems and include theoretical readings.

The very essence of postmodernism states that meaning is provisional. The meaning that Gwen Harwood imbued in her poems may not necessarily be the meaning that we as responders ‘draw out’ from the poem. Harwood’s poetry is a product of her own historical, social, cultural and personal context and any subsequent reading is done by responders with their own unique set of circumstances. These new set of circumstances will invariably be different and hence multiple readings of a text can be taken and each reader will take their own meaning from a text. What is important here is the notion of textual integrity. Whatever meaning is perceived
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From here on in the persona is unable to return to the ‘child who believed death clean and final, not this obscene.’ This can be interpreted as paralleling the exile from Eden and is consistent with the idea that with age you inevitably lose your childlike innocence and cannot return to it.

Further Biblical allusions can be drawn from the relationship between the father and how the child was able to resist his power and take the gun. The way the father was ‘robbed of power, by sleep’ relates to Sampson whose wife cut off his hair in his sleep rendering him powerless. In this account Sampson’s eyes were also gauged out by the Philistines. The motif of eyes and blindness here strengthens the intertextual connection. A spiritual reading can be applied in that ironically out of loss of power and pain and blindness comes greater insight and renewed spiritual awareness and strength.

Father and Child also raises the issue of humanities obsession with power. A psychoanalytic reading can provide meaning to the text when the child takes the gun. It is significant that Freud identified the gun as a symbol for power. Consistent with this reading the child’s motive to kill the owl is purely to satisfy its desire for power and control and to play ‘judge’ over it. The child after seeing the effects of its actions immediately regrets what it has done when he sees the owl’s eyes, ‘mirror my cruelty.’ Harwood makes the
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