Sample Essay Human Experience Gwen Harwood

Sample Essay Human Experience Gwen Harwood

How do composers create meaning through exploration of human experience?

The human experience encompasses a wide range of conceptions about life and loss, validated by memory. Gwen Harwood creates meaning through her exploration of these metaphysical forces and their impact on human existence in the poem, “the Violet” and “At Mornington”

The unrelenting and constant flow of time can sometimes overwhelm individuals, prompting their need to withdrawal to their memory. Gwen Harwood’s poem, “The Violets” creates meaning through exploration of the power of memory to transcend through time despite the finite nature human experience. The poem opens with a bleak atmosphere established by the “frail melancholy flowers” which symbolise the narrator’s childhood memories. The fractured structure of the poem and repetition of “Ambiguous light. Ambiguous sky” emphasising the way the narrator is melting into nostalgia in order to alleviate unpleasant experiences. Gwen Harwood explores the transcendent power of memories through the narrator’s mother’s “long hair falling to her waist” connoting a powerful experience of the bond between mother and child that obviously has not been weathered away by the passage of time. (This is a pretty big jump. Remember you can paraphrase the poem rather than direct quote if you want to highlight multiple descriptions which make this connection clear. It appears forced otherwise.) The narrator’s child persona undergoes a transition upon learning that the morning was “gone”, symbolising the unrelenting passing of time, she eventually accepts the loss of “unreturning light”, a metaphor for life.  The child persona’s acceptance parallels the narrator’s enlightenment in present time. The alliteration in “death’s disorienting scale distort” emphasises the notion that the looming and inevitable prospect of death cannot steal the comforting experiences of life from her. Powerful memories are integral to human experience, retaining meaning with their ability to transcend time and comfort individuals in times of distress.

(Good work, but you have referred to too many techniques and direct quotes. You need to elaborate more on a few lines, and paraphrase where possible, otherwise some of these connections can seem forced and underdeveloped.)

The immortality of memory has the power to transcend time and preserve us through times of hardship. The poem, “At Mornington” creates meaning though Gwen Harwood’s exploration of the inescapable cycle of life and loss to the human experience. The symbolic action in which the narrator lept from her “father’s arms” connotes the shedding of patriarchal and paternal protection of childhood and entrance into independent existence. The repetition of “the next wave, the next wave” in the narrator’s memory emphasises the recurrent aspect of nature that mirrors human experience. The “wholeness of the day” that the narrator enjoys in present time is a metaphor for the immortality of memories in transcending through time.  The inescapably of  loss and death can only be consolidated by the symbolic comfort of memories when the narrator “secure in my father’s arms” . The accumulation of “dreams, pain memories, love and grief” demonstrates the overwhelming range of emotion that human experience can cover. The hyperbole “bear me away forever” reflects the transience and immortality of memory that will continue to maintain individuals in times of hardship. The inescapable cycle of life and loss to the human experience can only be consolidated through the immortal power of memory to transcend through time and preserve individuals in times of hardship.

The immortal power of memory preserves human experiences despite the finite nature of existence. Gwen Harwood creates meaning regarding human existence through exploration of these metaphysical conceptions in the poem “At Mornington” and “The Violets”.


You have picked a number of strong points from the text and have found proper techniques to express what you are trying to write. Each could easily be developed into a point on the human experience.

Simply put, you have too many quotes. Having so many gives your argument no chance to develop and neither do your main points or evidence. Some of links you have here are tentative at best, and could easily be dropped in order to expand upon much stronger points. Focus on cutting down paragraphs to no more than two or three examples or quotes, and make stronger connections between the poems and human experience.

Think about the argument and theme first before the poem. The techniques should be proof that supports your answer, rather than the driving force behind it.

You have shown with this answer you are quite adept at analysing poetry and have the capacity to go really deep with your responses. This answer has potential. It shows potential to be very strong with some of your chosen examples and points of discussion.

However, none of them are fully developed in a way that categorically states this poem is about the human experience, and rather highlights all the points that could be. As you redraft this – focus on building an argument first. Even write it without using quotes. Use your quotes after you have a link between the poem as a whole and human experience, then use quotes to back you up.

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