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Mothers are seen as people of quality and valued for their experience and wisdom and thus their role is celebrated by Harwood. Triggered by a deliberation of the life-giving quality of her own mother, Harwood's tribute is characterised by universality in expression.The title of the poem is Harwoods' personal reflection on her mother shown through the first person narration and the connotations raised by this title are emblematic of portraying life as a miracle and gift, thus magnifying the wonders of maternity. In addition, the biblical image of 'the guileless milk of the word' is a feminine reference to the nourishment and life-sustaining force of a mothers' milk which underlines the remarkable connection between a mother and her child.
Harwood's recognition that ageing is inevitable is shown through the plosive consonance in 'crumple', however through the use of metonymy in representing her mother as 'fine threadbare linen' suggests that her durability and qualities will prevail beyond death. This metaphor of 'fine linen' reinforces the superior characteristics attributed and thus highlights the poets' admiration and immense love for her mother. Harwood suggests that in spite of the change which death has brought, with the sadness of the recognition that her mother's 'fabric of marvels' is complete, her enduring qualities are eternal. Overall, this is a powerful poem that reveres women through time as life-giveres with stoic strength to protect and care for their young.
'The bonds that link women who share common experiences is pervasive in Harwood's poetry' (Hoddinott)
'The Violets' by Gwen Harwood, delves into the power of memory and how it can allow significant moments to transcend time.
This poem is ultimately a celebration of the enveloping love which each member of the poet's family felt for each other and thus the olfactory of violets in the present become emblems in awakening memories of family warmth and affection. Consequent of her reminiscence, Harwood acknowledges that; "Years cannot move nor does death's disorientating scale distort those lamp lit presences". Here, the alliteration of heavy'd' sounds highlights the finality of death in ending all things which is overpowered by the influential existence of her parents showin in the light imagery. As Hoddinott comments, 'this poem itself enshrines in its music the lamplit presences of the past'. Harwood insists that time cannot change nor alter the meaning of these memories as their existence is indelible and thus there is a prophetic tone employed when expressing 'years cannot move'. Overall, Harwood demonstrates textual integrity throughout the poem with the recurring motif of violets and interestingly, the last stanza indexes both present and past memories where the narrative voices are fused between first and third person simultaneously. The continuity between past and present is realised through the scent provoking a precious and sustaining memory in fading times, 'faint scents of violets drift in air'. Hence Harwood reinforces the complexities of time and concludes that neither time nor death can take away our precious memories.
Both poems explore the value of a traditional domestic setting whereby the nature of parental roles is representative of customary conventions.
In Mother Who Gave Me Life, Harwood depicts mothers as the crux of the domestic world, who mediates the dynamics of the family. Her portrayal illustrates mothers as humble in their execution of domestic chores and this is shown through the diminutive noun 'folding of a little towel'. Here the consonance in 'l' sounds creates a lulling effect, akin to the mother's reassuring presence over the household. The folding of the towel by the mother also represents her care for the small things that are nonetheless important, thus furthering her profound qualities. Despite the assumed subserviences of women in the 1950s Australian context, Harwood recognises that her mothers' role of domesticity is not enforced but rather voluntary and out of pure maternal love. The last stanza typifies an idealised family through the vignettes of emotive and domestic images, whereby the mother embodies the roles of nurture; 'supper set out' and protector; 'calling me in'. It concludes with the biblical allusion to 'my father's house' in reference to the House of the God which highlights the mother as the traditional homemaker in this typical, patriarchal Christian family.There is no specification of time and setting in the last stanza which shows that it encapsulates all of Harwoods' poignant and vivid memories of her family household life.
Similar to MWGML, in the Violets, Harwood uses imagery to depict the mother figure in the text as one of domesticity and nurturing.
The active verb in 'I ran to find my mother' creates a sense of urgency on behalf of the child and this is reciprocated by the mother who attentatively consoles the child 'she dried my tearful face', thus establishing the strong vigor of their bond. Additionally, the inclusion of direct quotation 'it will soon be night, you goose' provides the effect of a sense of reality in placing the reader within the scene. The mothers' referral to her child as 'goose'in a soothing tone is a term of endearment that shows the easy, loving familiarity between mother and child. In contrast, Harwoods' conception of the paternal figure "my father whistling came from work" is representative of the patriarchal identity as the provider and leader of the household. The use of onomatopoeia gives his arrival an aural immediecy and establishes his dominant role in the family. Harwood maintains textual integrity by connecting this experience with her adult whistling of the first stanza and in doing so effectively interlinks past and present.Similar to MWGML, the religious allusion of 'my father's house' is employed so to illustrate the house as a sacred place and the parents are the childs' source of security and comfort.
Harwood concludes her representation in the last stanza, depicting the quintessential nature of traditional family life. She triggers the audience to envisage an idealistic yet simple scene through the tableaus of sensory domestic images painted; 'a child with milk and story-book, my father â€¦stroking my mother's goldbrown hair'. Here, the use of synesthesia appeals to the variety senses of responders and reinforces a peaceful and ideal picture of domestic family life. The nolstagic tone in combination with the positive connotations raised by the descriptive language within the anecdote is indicative of the poets' fond remembrance of these past memories and thus underlines her appreciation of the value of domestic family life and connection.