Themes and Ideas Gwen Harwood Explores in Her Poetry, and How She Communicates It to the Reader

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What themes and ideas does Gwen Harwood explore in her poetry and how does she communicate her ideas to the reader

Gwen Harwood poems such as The Glass Jar and Prize-Giving illuminate concerns fundamental to human experience including life, death, spirituality and human fall from innocence explored abstractly through the prism of childhood experience. The use of binary opposites, metaphors, similes, musical motifs and biblical allusions allow for a multiplicity of responses and readings highlighting mythological, psychological, Freudian and feminist interpretation.

The Glass Jar illustrates the journey of a young boy from childhood innocence to maturity, knowledge and experience. The poem conveys the potential and possibilities of a
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Initially the professor is dignified and elevated – described as an “honored guest” and “humble”. Through this technique the responder is able to recognize his importance and is also able to see his egotistical nature, as he compares himself to great artworks such as “Rodan’s Thinker”. As he surrenders to his temptation for the young school girl, though, a subtle shift in power is evident. Like the boy in The Glass Jar the professor is seduced by temptation and falls from grace.

“Prize-giving” uses a shift in tone to illuminate its thematic concerns. This is symbolized by the professor succumbing to the seductive nature of the girl. Colour motif such as “red” symbolizes passion and desire. The responder becomes aware that the professor is trapped by his attraction. This is also reinforced through the description of their handshake, which had “voltage”- symbolic of his sexual attraction. Music is also a recurring theme in Harwood’s poetry and is seen here in references to “Mozart”. Through the use of common themes and ideas to communicate Gwen Harwood’s message, a plethora of techniques have been employed.

The poem then explores power perspectives and dwells specifically, on feminist and gender issues. The professor represents the patriarchal power of the past. The time of “calm age and power”. The “girl with the titian hair” is symbolic of the feminist challenge to such patriarchal
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