Gwen Harwood Essay

Harwood’s poetry exposes the consequences of loss.

Loss is inevitable in life, and it may result in either a negative or positive outcome for an individual. Harwood’s poetry explores the different ways people experience loss and how it affects them and the way they see society. Through her poetry Harwood suggests that having power does not always mean you will be successful and may in fact result in defeat when this power is challenged. Furthermore, she exposes the truth behind how easily faith and trust can be lost in a child’s eyes as they grow up and are forced to realise the complexity of life. Finally, she reveals how a person’s identity can be consumed by the expectations of society, resulting in a loss of self. Therefore, Harwood’s poetry suggests that the consequences of loss are mainly negative.

Harwood suggests that having power does not necessarily mean you will be successful – it may also result in defeat and a loss of childhood innocence if power is gained too early or abused. “Barn Owl” explores the idea that with power comes a great deal of responsibility and realising how complexity life and death are. A young girl rebels against her father by taking his gun to shoot an owl “from his place on a high beam”. She proudly describes herself as the “master of life and death”, whereas her father, the “No-Sayer”, is represented as the weak, powerless one, still asleep and therefore “robbed of power.” Simple, short sentences are used throughout stanzas one to three, representing her confidence in holding power and her unquestioning faith in her actions. The sentences are longer after stanza four when she shoots the owl, symbolising the uncertainty she now has regarding life and death, and the realisation that the life cycle is more complex than what she believed. This is shown through her distress as she realises that she is no longer powerful, calling herself a “lonely child who believed death clean and final”, the consequence of her losing the power...