Gwen Harwood's 'the Violets' and 'Father and Child'

Gwen Harwood – Critical Study of Texts

Gwen Harwood is one of Australia’s finest and most recognised poets, with her works winning numerous prizes and awards. Harwood was born in 1920 in a town in Queensland and she was raised in Brisbane. In 1945, after her marriage, she moved to Tasmania where she developed most of her works. Her sudden move to Tasmania and loss of her childhood city had made her outlook on life a lot differently. This sudden change can be seen in most of her poetry through different interpretations which reflect different values and beliefs, where the persona deals with both loss and consolation. Harwood continues to engage many readers through her poetry with the use of these two major themes. These themes are related to the life of Harwood and the persona in the poem’s own childhood and understanding. Two poems which display the themes of loss and consolation clearly are Father and Child and The Violets, where the themes are explored through the use of techniques and the reader’s personal understanding of the poems.

The theme of loss in Father and Child is explored through the little girl shooting the owl in the first part of the poem, ‘Barn Owl’. The little girl shoots the owl and due to this, she loses her innocence as a young female and this causes her to be exiled from her childhood. The young girl describes herself as a “horny fiend” which symbolises the devil, which doesn’t show that she wanted to lose her innocence at that specific moment by shooting the owl, but instead shows that she wanted to act like a masculine and mature figure by shooting something as a gun is usually used by a male to kill wild animals. The young girl thought that she wanted to be more mature but due to that, she had lost her innocence as a little child. The use of short and simple sentences during ‘Barn Owl’ shows the youth of the girl and how great the responsibility was which she undertook when she decided to shoot the owl. Another loss in Father and...