Commentary on Gwen Harwood's Alter Ego

1684 Words7 Pages
Paper 1: Gwen Harwood’s Alter Ego I may believe that I am always the same person, but I can never know whether we have an alternative personality that I share my body with. That is not the case in Gwen Harwood’s poem, “Alter Ego”, where the protagonist yearns to meet and join with her “other self”, who is always quiet and standing the protagonist’s shadow, unheard and unnoticed. Harwood goes through numerous tonal shifts, taking the reader on a ride of different emotions in every stanza, as the protagonist desperately searches for the person in the shadows. The most striking aspect of this passage is how Harwood uses the metaphor and imagery of Mozart and his music to allow the readers to empathise with the feelings of desperation and wanting that Harwood is trying to portray. At the end of the poem, it seems as though the protagonist had given up, until the “alter ego” finally came out of hiding. Harwood begins her poem with the protagonist talking about someone “who stands beside [them]”, in the dark, “nameless, indifferent”. It is described as someone, or something, that is always near them, watching their every move, yet unable to say any words or make any sounds. In lines 2-4, it seems as though the protagonist is very fearful of the shadow that is following them, as they are unable to see who it is, but can feel the eyes of the shadow on themselves. With the use of short-syllabled words, the feeling of fear is intensified, and it engages the readers, making us want to read on. In line 5-6, the identity of the shadow is revealed. Harwood finishes the first stanza by stating that the protagonist feels the shadow’s “pulse is [theirs], who goes sleepless and is not spent”. Here Harwood implies who, or what, the shadow is to the protagonist: their “alter ego” – the other personality. It seems as though the protagonist has found who they were seeking, yet they
Open Document