Gwen Harwood chooses to represent social institutions in a negative light because often in Gwen Harwood’s poems, women are portrayed as victims of the social circumstances of the 1950s and in the past as well.
But Harwood sometimes chooses to take a different view and instead has the women either fight against the male dominant character, choosing to be more than just the mans possession or be an independent women who has ambitions and determination to be successful and not necessarily just be a mother.
By placing the man as the dominant sex that provides for the family, and the women as the housewives and mothers, she gives the reader a view of how people were in the 1950s, and then adds a twist of the women dismissing this accepted behavior to express her opinion of such issues.
Gwen Harwood’s work frequently focuses on woman being demoralised by society’s practices that reduce her to a lesser being. A common worldwide value that Harwood rejects as the normality in life with her poems. Harwood battles against the traditions that she believes support this downgrading by continually returning to the issue.
In “Home of Mercy” there is a line in the poem. Here I believe she is talking about the Magdalene Asylums. It was a place of slave labor laundries from the 18th to the late-20th centuries to house "fallen women", a term used to imply female sexual promiscuity.
Asylums for such girls and women and others believed to be of poor moral character, such as prostitutes and teenage pregnancy.
Harwood critiques her society for its oppressive treatment of women who are unprotected by marriage or respectability.
So then she uses imagery to emphasize the hypocritical nature of the Christian Institutes that perpetrate it. Harwood recalls to our mind the sympathy for the young women portrayed in the poem and wants the readers to contemplate the sexism within society.
The opening of the poem, “by two and two the ruined girls are walking". The fact that they are...