Overall, ‘Father and Child’, demonstrates the individuals pursuit of power over the authoritative figure through defiance in the form of rebellion and destruction of authority. Through this Harwood challenges widely recognised stereotypes of purity and innocence associated with young girls and has also enriched my own perception on the connection between childhood memories and their effect on shaping an individuals identity.
Harwood depicts the memories of the persona in the first section, ‘Barn Owl’, where the loss of innocence due to childhood naivety is illustrated to be the foundation of the persona’s development of identity. This is shown when the persona shoots the “Owl” with the gun of the “father”, a representation of his power and authority. Here, the owl epitomizes both wisdom and authority, which the child seeks to resist.
Thus in their mind, the child is destroying authority. The diction of ‘Barn Owl’, unlike its counterpart, is much simpler and holds an essence of child-like awareness, for example, the short and monosyllabic language of “Let him dream of a child Obedient,” shows the persona trying to exhibit an image of cunning and rebellion, however it is obvious to the responder that the persona is prying into complexities the she does not completely understand.
As the responder I can understand the persona’s refusal of authority and therefore forgive the childish ignorance which can be relatable to anyone. The following lines where the father regains the power and instructs the persona to “End what you have begun” is a dismaying moment after which the child is shown to have lost her innocence and naivety. Corresponding use of intertextuality in the second section, “Nightfall” in which the persona seems to have grown up, creates a more profound reading of the text.
This can be seen in the references to ‘King Lear’ through the designation of “Old King”, to the father as well as the direct quoting of Lear’s words, “be your tears wet? ” The lateral connections between these texts allows Harwood to disregard time and context differences, and rather focus on the similar ideas being presented. In my opinion, further exploration of ‘King Lear’ reshaped my previous understanding of ‘Father and Child’, also influencing my point of view.
In ‘Nightfall’ the focus of childhood memories is incorporated into the idea of the importance of relationships and the inevitability of death. The child from the previous section has matured and is shown to have grown a greater appreciation for the complexities of life and the subtleties of the relationship with her father. As it goes on, we see a reversal of roles in which the father has gained the innocence lost in the former section and the child has “grown to learn what sorrows, in the end, no words, no tears can mend’ revealing her growing wisdom.
The symbolic and profound nature of this text has greatly shaped and reshaped my outlook on the importance of relationships, the inevitability of death, and the power of childhood memories. Further research, such as readings and other resources, as well as deeper exploration of this text allows many of the implicit details to be truly appreciated and understood. The relevant themes and inherent referencing of other texts allows ‘Father and Child’ to be very meaningful and enjoyable for audiences from many contexts.