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The Glass Jar


The changing self- perception, a common motif in Harwood’s poetry is dramatically narrated in the Glass Jar where a young naïve boy reveals a lack of understanding of both the laws of physics and the nature of lovemaking.  His loss of innocence and transition to mature understanding is dramatically recreated by the use of series of clever episodes and images.



The religious language and images; good, (angels, disciples, bless, holy commonplace, resurrected sun) is counterpointed by references to evil; (monsters, fiends, pincer and claw,{synecdoche} a malignant ballet. Good and evil are also contrasted through light (security and order) and darkness (emptiness and chaos).


The references to music, nature (forest, wood, field, thickets, flower, clearing) and subconscious dreams (Freudian suppressed urges – Oedipal)  makes this a subtle but evocative and effective poem depicting the transition between the innocence of childhood and adolescent awareness.  We all need defenses against emptiness and the forces of darkness;  horror, pain and separation are necessary steps towards independence, maturity and self-reliance.


The dominant image of the glass jar, like the boy’s innocent faith in the sun, is transparent and easily shattered. Hope is personified and “fell headlong from its eagle height.”


The tones modulate between expectation, hope, mystery, fear, jealousy with overtones evoked through religious language.

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