Gwen Harwood Selcted Poety Essay "Every Text Has Its Use By Date"

1227 words - 5 pages

Compose an argument for or against that ‘every text has a use-by date’.Consider your prescribed texts’ ideas, language and form, and its reception in different contexts.To make the argument that ‘every text has a use by date,’ would be quite fickle and small minded as texts often have deeper meanings, and the themes explored generally have universal appeal. Although the text itself may not change, people from different contexts will identify different meanings from it, and thus it will always have importance to responders. This is especially true for the poetry of Gwen Harwood, in particular ‘The Glass Jar’ and ‘Alter Ego’ which lend themselves to a Christian, Freudian or modernist interpretation.Although, ‘the Glass Jar’ and ‘Alter Ego’ are two different works, they do share a similar style and a coherence of form. Like Harwood’s other poems, they adhere to a strict rhyme scheme, with sophisticated language. Additionally, her poems show a preoccupation with the holistic idea of the human experience, dealing with universal themes of life, death, dreams and the nature of self, showing that her poems all link well together, as they are ‘part of one work, product of one mind,’ thus achieving textual integrity.On a literal level, ‘The Glass Jar” is a universal story about a boy’s crippling fear of the dark and the difficult journey of growth and experience that everyone must go through. After a nightmare, a boy tries to release the sun’s rays that he captured in a jar. Failing that, he approaches his mother but finds her ‘in her rival’s fast embrace”. Bereaved of his ‘comforter,’ he faces his fears alone and wakes up in the morning, becoming more mature through bitter experience.However, one coming from a primarily Christian context, will see that there is another side to the poem that Harwood has integrated so that it exists as both a narrative and a Christian allegory of the struggle between good and evil. In the first stanza, Harwood describes how ‘all the sun’s disciples (a pun on the word ‘son’)…from his passion fled”. The other religious references like “host,” “monstrance,” “to bless, to exorcise’ and ‘holy’ further support a Christian reading of the poem.Furthermore, the Harwood employs the use of chiaroscuro to represent the opposing forces of good and evil, for example, the use of devilishly dark imagery in the boys nightmare, ‘Pincer and claw, trident and vampire fang,” which contrasts with the holiness of light and day. However, in the end, Harwood suggests that ‘good’ will always triumph, as the ‘resurrected sun’ (Christ’s resurrection) would fill ‘night’s gulfs and hungers,” both being symbols of evil or life’s suffering. The poem ends with the final image of the sun coming to ‘wink and...

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