Essay Aidan Shrubshall
How does Harwood present ‘Changing-self in ‘Prizegiving’?
In her poem ‘Prizegiving,’ Gwen Harwood presents the idea that change can occur to an individual without them noticing. This is evident in the challenge presented to Professor Eisenbart by the titian-haired girl and is conveyed through a variety of literary and poetic techniques.
Professor Eisenbart is the protagonist of this poem. He is clearly dominant in the first three stanzas of the poem where Harwood presents him as arrogant, vain and thinks of himself as a superior person, booth through his appearance and intelligence.
This is shown in the lines “When he appeared/ the girls whirred with an insect nervousness, / the Head in humbler black flapped around and steered/ her guest, superb in silk and fur, with pride.” Firstly, this demonstrates Eisenbart as an object of desire to the young women in the theatre, with the metaphor “insect nervousness” enforcing this concept.
Juxtaposition is also used between Eisenbart, in his superb in his silk and fur juxtaposed to the head in her humbler black, reinforcing the idea that Eisenbart is superior to all those in his company.
This air of dominance and self-concept is flipped when, while scanning the “mosaic of young heads” in stanza 3, Eisenbart spots a titian-haired girl imitating his stance. To begin with, it would seem that she is mocking him, but in truth she is challenging Eisenbart, his intellect and the science part of the brain. Harwood uses juxtaposition in the 22nd line, “With titian hair/ one girl grinning at him,” the contrast being the conformity of the “virginal” young women in the crowd and the passion of this red-haired individual.
After stanza 3, the dominance of the poem swaps from Eisenbart, then briefly to the audience as Eisenbart becomes aware of them, then with the spotlight effect on the titian girl. The tension between the pair, the professor and the music student, continues to...