One’s experiences as a child and the recollections that are associated with this shape and control the identity and actions that they will exhibit and share with the rest of the world. Whilst Gwen Harwood constantly speaks of her childhood as radiant happiness, her move to Tasmania not only influenced change in her relationships with others, but her writing style too. Gwen had always felt like an outsider, never belonging within her new community, however, she channeled this isolation into her writing.
never felt like she belonged in Tasmania but could definitely write about it. Her poem ‘The Violets’, allows distance to be shown throughout structuring decisions made by the author due to the lack of any fixed rhyme or tense patterns. This enables the speaker’s parents to become a distant memory by choice. Throughout the poem, the speaker makes it evident that she was raped as a child, including the personification of tears to represent her father scolding ‘the thing I could not grasp or name’, her virginity.
The speaker also says ‘I try whistling a trill, close by his nest our blackbird frets’. This intensifies the terror within the relationship with her father. The symbolism of the blackbird is foreshadowing the consequences of her father ‘stroking his beak’ leaving her forever traumatised. The constant stream of distress and chilling language used throughout the five stanzas left her feeling fearful’, ‘frail’ and ultimately living within a never ending nightmare. This could not have be escaped as a ‘faint scent of violets drifts in the air’, disclosing the fact that her childhood will always stay with her, through the good and evil.
The memories will never fade, ‘nor death’s disorientating scale distort those lamplit presences’. Harwood’s poem ‘The Secret Life of Frogs’ also communicates the themes of memory and childhood, having power over the way someone conducts themself. Unlike ‘The Violets’ which has a specific moment in that was detrimental to the upbringing of the speaker, ‘The Secret Life of Frogs’ shows how being constantly manipulated into one way of thinking, can be just as deleterious. Through the use of satire, Harwood uses a frog to represent the French people in World War I in a negative light. The reference to WWI proves the innocence of children and how they can misinterpret what adults talk about. The metaphor ‘Dad the Impaler!’ accentuates the brutality of war and its negative influence on children, who are made to believe that mass murder is heroic. Children always look up to adults, especially those who they know well, and imitate their every move and characteristic.
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