Gwen Harwoods Feminism

Harwood’s dramatizing elements such as her imagery, speech and characters demonstrate her point of view towards women in society and feminism. In her writing she emits a strong tone of resentment and plays with the reader’s thoughts and emotions. She criticises the male-dominated 50s and 60s in almost a mocking tone if not so. Some of her poems stress that women are strong, capable and have potential to hold roles that are much less typical then that of a mother, daughter or housewife. Harwood also explains the biased treatment that is given to women for their sins, but never to men.

‘Home of Mercy’ is a poem involving a group of young females who have been taken in by the church’s nuns for their sins of fornication or adultery. Already into the first stanza we are provided with an example of dominant instructions towards the women by an old nun who “silences their talking”. The women are treated almost as if they were criminals in the convent but also as though they were ‘animals’. This is evident in the quotes ‘two and two the ruined girls are walking’, ‘they smooth with roughened hands the clumsy dress that hides their ripening bodies’. This is where Harwood introduces the concept that the women are pregnant, which allows us to understand more clearly why they are fully imprisoned in their sins. ‘Each morning they will launder, for their sin’ provides us with and image of the women’s life for the next 9 months and the prices they will have to pay. An important aspect of this poem is that Harwood does not mention the involvement of the partner/man in an attempt to blindly state that even though both the man and women have sinned, only the woman must pay a price with the man escaping fully from discipline. Creating the idea that women are always left to do the dirty work for men.

The poem ‘Burning Sappho’ carries on with the idea that women will be required to do the less desirable requirements of life. The character in this poem is a housewife, all she...