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Barn Owl Analysis

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If there is anything one can truly expect in life, it is that death can never be eluded. Through James McAuley and Gwen Harwood’s poems, “Pieta” and “Barn Owl” respectively, death is conveyed through the use of various techniques. McAuley’s “Pieta” explores how a father is overwhelmed by the grief he feels over the death of his child, whereas “Barn Owl” depicts the death of a child’s innocence due to a foolish decision.

Within the first stanza of “Pieta” readers are introduced to a grieving father through McAuley’s explanation that his child came metaphorically “Early into the light” and “lived a day and night”, twelve months previous. This differs to Harwood’s approach as she uses her introductory stanzas to introduce the readers to a young child with perilous intentions, “A horny fiend. [Who] crept / out with [her] father’s gun” to wreak havoc. Through the use of a first person recount, Harwood exposes
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Concluding oxymoronically, Pieta’s oxymoron of “Clean wounds” conveys how the death of the premature child cannot be visually explained yet does not alleviate nor diminish the grief the father experiences; his pain is “terrible” and inexplicable. Contrastingly, the child narrator in “Barn Owl” assumes responsibility for their actions and is forced to “End what [they] have begun”. After the narrator fires the gun causing the owl’s death, irony is used to convey the immensity of grief. While the owl was “blind in early sun”; the child is metaphorically blinded by the grief that is reaped from her actions.

Through “Pieta” and “Barn Owl”, both McAuley and Harwood successfully portray death as painful by allowing readers to comprehend how it impacts upon individuals, thus demonstrating how it does not discriminate according to gender or
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