What are some key ideas and themes in Gwen Harwood's “Father and Child” that could be adapted to both a discursive and creative piece of writing?

Key ideas in Gwen Harwood's “Father and Child” include loss of innocence and the transformation over time of parent to child relationships. Such themes could be addressed in discursive writing through analysis of the author's use of narrative within the poem. Inspiration for creative writing might involve association with personal experiences of subjects addressed, such as learning about responsibility from a parent.

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Gwen Harwood’s poem “Father and Child” has two parts: “Barn Owl” and “Nightfall.” The poem as a whole addresses the changing relationship between the speaker and their father at two different points in their lives: when the speaker is a child, and then as an adult when their father is elderly. In “Barn Owl,” the speaker undergoes a loss of innocence as they learn respect for life when their father forces them to take responsibility for another creature’s death. In “Nightfall,” the father’s advanced age encourages the speaker to contemplate mortality in a different way as well as to recall the value of the lessons he had taught them decades earlier.

In developing a piece of discursive writing, a writer could consider how the poet achieves her goals in communicating these themes. Such an analysis could address the author’s narrative methods in suggesting a more universal application of the personal experiences. The writer could incorporate analysis of literary devices the poet uses, such as symbolism involving light and dark to stand for life or youth and age or death.

For creative writing, an author might find inspiration for a poem based on similar experiences or relationships. For example, they might write about a significant moment when a parent forced them to take responsibility, a confrontation with an animal’s death, or an occasion when they observed changes in their relationship with an older relative.

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