How do composers use texts to explore concepts of Changing Self? Discuss ideas and techniques.
In Gwen Harwood’s poems Prize-Giving and The Glass Jar, the prescribed text Sky-High, and the novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, the composer have used many varying ideas and techniques to investigate and illustrate concepts of Changing Self effectively. The ideas looked at in Gwen Harwood’s poetry include imagery, retrospect, metaphor, and inversion of the connotation of adjectives. Ideas conveyed in Sky-High include imagery, retrospect, and comparison. The techniques and ideas in White Teeth, to name the most important, are long and erratic chronology, removing characters for a period and the exposing of the least important change are evident in the texts that are compared.
In Gwen Harwood’s poem Prize-Giving, the composer has adeptly used imagery to examine and represent the Changing Self evident in this poem. This striking imagery at first portrays an egotistical middle aged man, such as his inurbane behaviour when he “scowled with violent distaste”. This works in revealing the major change of Eisenbart, in comparing the self-righteous man at the start of the poem, to the awkward and confused man at the end. The imagery used to describe the titian haired girl is also evocative, especially when comparing her supposed insignificance in contrast to Eisenbart, and the affect she has on him. She seems to be nothing but a cheeky, though attractive, schoolgirl: “one girl sat grinning.”
This thought of her insignificance is reinforced when she “winked at nearby friends”, possibly reinforcing to Eisenbart her immaturity that was earlier established through her audacious behaviour during the opening prayer. However, Eisenbart was flung from his “calm age and power” merely by a touch of this ‘immature schoolgirl’, indicating a change. This change in the girl’s attitude is reinforced when she changed “her casual schoolgirl’s for a master’s air”, indicating the power that she has that Eisenbart has not detected thus far.
In the text Sky-High by Hannah Robert, the concept of Changing Self is analysed and emphasized through retrospect, apt imagery, and change of language. “The best climbing tree” indicates the experiences of a child and their joy in everything no matter how small. However, the responsibility in the statement “it is unlikely the washing line could support me” divulges that the persona is now more responsible, and, it is discovered, also older, revealing a physical change of self. The comparisons in the final stanza show the insight that the persona now has; as seen in “I was once the curious onlooker, I now write my own semaphore secrets in colourful t-shirts”. It also shows, however, that no matter how much a person changes, that he or she is still the same person, and that they still retain what they were before.
The metaphors used in The Glass Jar, and the way in which they are developed and often exaggerated, shows and typifies the change of self that is experienced by the persona, so that greater audiences may understand the experiences of a small child. Only a small child could imagine an ordinary glass jar as a “monstrance” in which the sun could be caught for the night. This vision of the “holy commonplace of field and flower” coming to save the boy is lost when he awakes from his nightmares. The religious metaphor is now lost except for the mocking image of the “resurrected sun” in the final stanza. The inversion of the usual use of adjectives shows the confusion associated with the change of self for the persona, such as the “malignant ballet”.
The novel White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, develops the concept of Changing Self with a long and somewhat inconsistent chronology. All the characters in this novel, which reaches from World War Two to the end of the century, obviously change physically due to this long chronology. However, the retrospect as to how much the characters have changed in other ways is far more potent because of the extensive chronology. The comparison, for example, Josh Chalfen turning away from his family and becoming less of a nerd: he was the kind of guy “who could measure an eighth with his eyes closed (so fuck you, Millat)”. The original focus of the book on Archie Jones beguiles the reader into thinking that he is the main focus for the book. However, Archie serves merely as a connection between all the original characters.
From these characters the Jones, Iqbal, Chalfen and Bowden families and their stories emerge, and all the adults, in the end, only accentuate the changes that the children (Irie, Millat, Magid, and Josh) undergo, that is, comparing where the children have ended up to what their parents expected of them. The later and extended focus of the novel on Millat Iqbal, who changes in the most radical way out of all the characters, hides the slow and, in the sense that Millat changes, insignificant changes of Irie Jones, but her changes are more symbolic and emotional. The removal of Magid from the story means that his change of self seems sudden, because the persona is taken away at the age of nine years and only returned at the age of seventeen.
In the texts Prize-Giving and The Glass Jar by Gwen Harwood, Sky-High by Hannah Robert, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith, ideas and techniques are flaunted in terms of how they are used to display the change of self in the personas. The numerous ideas used in each of the texts, often overlapping to be used in more than one text show the skill of the composers and their flexibility in applying various techniques.