Sample Essay Gwen Harwood Critical Study

Sample Essay Gwen Harwood Critical Study

In the context of your critical study, to what extent does your response to the closing stanza of Father and Child inform your judgement of this poem and Harwood’s poetry as a whole?

Through comparison of the growth and morality in past and present selves, Gwen Harwood’s collection explores the ways in which the emotional development of the individual is postulated by the familial and personal relationships. The last stanza of the poem, “Father and Child” exposes the role of the paternal (You need to be using the noun form ‘paternity’ rather than the adjective paternal) in securing the individuals sense of morality and their growth. “The Violets” reveals the fragility of existence and the strong sense of comfort and security family can provide in times of uncertainty. “A Valediction” shows how individual independence is a necessary component of a relationship. Gwen Harwood emphasises the power of family in solidifying the individual’s sense of being in a world where existence is fleeting and death is certain.

(Great intro, but make sure they go with ‘Father and Child’!)

In the realm of the domestic, the paternal oversees the individual growth in children, adding to their personal and emotional experiences and guiding them when they have wronged. (This sounds clever but the wording could be much simpler. Make sure your topic sentences are simple – you can be ‘clever’ with the rest of your discussion.) “Father and child” reveals the strength and symbiotic nature of familial relationships. The repetition in “no words, no tears” in the persona’s reaction when she comes to realise of her father’s mortality symbolises the importance of the personal and emotional teaching of the paternal. Their inability to be metaphorically “mend” shows how critical these experiences have been to the the persona’s existence. The phallic symbol of the “white stick” which the father uses to support himself juxtaposes with the earlier mentions of a gun, connoting a “Father and child” emphasises the importance of familial relationships for support and growth in times of hardship. (()

(You start well here, but it tails off as you begin ‘listing’ quotes. You are saying a number of things about personal and emotional experiences but they are unrelated to each other. You need to break this up into a couple of sequenced paragraphs rather than shoving them all in together.)

The passage of time inevitably forces individuals to face their mortality and access their lives in terms of emotional and personal experiences. “The Violets” is an assessment of the importance of memory in keeping alive personal, emotional experiences and relationships of the past “The ashes and loam” of the present setting is a religious allusion to a funeral procession, connoting that the time of death is near. The poem indents, showing a shift in time frame that allows us a window to the narrator’s memory in which she retreats in uncertain times. The concrete setting of “Mitchelton” juxtaposes with the ambiguous setting of the present time in the first stanza, connoting that it is only though the power of memory and experience that we are able to concrete ourselves in times of insecurity. The motif of violets symbiotically connects the past time of childish distress to the realisation of mortality and impending death of the present. Both incidents are resolved by paternal and domestic comfort symbolised by “lamp and the wood stove”. The reindentation of “years cannot move” emphasises the importance of these personal, emotional experiences to an individuals self. The essentialness’ of memory and familial relations in maintaining a sense of stability at times of crisis is highlighted in the poem “the violets”.

(Again your discussion is a bit fragmented. Need to splice this into a number of paragraphs.)

Individuals must overcome loss in a relationship by establishing their own independence which allows them to navigate their lives. “A Valediction” is a testament to the power of the individual in overcoming loss to regain and emotional rejuvenation. The alliteration of “as always after partings” emphasises the ritualistic element of the persona’s process of saying farewell. The allusion to John Donne’s poem “The Sunne Rising” establishes the way in which the narrator attempts to console herself through literature. However, the narrator finds that this time “this farewell’s left me joyful”, the paradoxical statement shows the growth in the narrator’s character as she has realised that her partner’s presence is not needed to validate her existence. The high modality of her comment that her body would” give him joy” suggests her empowerment and liberation in her control of the relationship. The foundation of a solid relationship lies in the equal power of both of its participants.

(This is a good point but it has moved away from the connection with ‘Father and Child’. Remember, your argument here is that that particular stanza is representative of Harwood’s poetry as a whole.)

Gwen Harwood explores the moral and emotional complexities of the individual and the function of their relationships in symbiotically nurturing and providing security. “Father and Child” provides insight into the understanding of the importance of paternity in shaping morality and providing support. Confrontation with mortality and the inevitability of death prompts individuals to evaluate their life in terms of the intrinsic personal and emotional experiences which makes up their character as seen in “the Violets”. A certain amount of autonomy must be allowed for individuals in a relationship for it to prosper and not collapse in times of distance as addressed in “A Valediction”. Gwen Harwood’s collection of poems provides important commentary on the realm of the individual and the ways in which relationships changes and morphs with time.


You’ve found some compelling evidence and show the capacity to discuss this evidence in an informed manner. Some strong links to the question, and your interpretation of ‘Father and Child’ does lend itself in some way to the rest of Harwood’s poetry.

I don’t feel this has fully addressed the question. You need to ‘bridge the gap’, so to speak, between the closing stanza of ‘Father and Child’ and other poems by Gwen Harwood. What you’ve done is give some quite valid analysis of her other poems but have not really attempted to discuss how they are linked with ‘Father and Child’. You also need to give this a bit of an edit.

Start with your discussion before you go with evidence. In other words, write the entire argument WITHOUT evidence first, and then add evidence as you are editing it. You may find that you will have stronger links and a greater focus on the question.

Your argument about the power of the ‘symbolic’ physical and emotional relationship is a strong one but it is underdeveloped in this case.

Ultimately, you have analysed the poems quite adeptly but haven’t done so in a way which fully addresses the question. Three quarters of this evidence needs to be removed in order for you to start discussing and linking these poems properly.

Your analysis shows real intelligence and insight, but really needs to go with establishing a case for how ‘Father and Child’ inform your judgement of Gwen Harwood’s poetry as a whole.

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