“In the Park” by Gwen Harwood

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There's a poem in the Park that describes how household responsibilities were a burden on women in the 1950s. In a patriarchal society, the task of caring for children and families was left to women, while men were to be overseers of their families. As Gwen describes in her poem, societal expectations and roles have made women lose their sense of value. It may be argued that women have not been able to enjoy their lives because of family arrangements in traditional society, and numerous compromises have come with the usual family responsibilities. The woman is entangled in family life. She has children to take care of alone, and her lover is not willing to assist bring up the children. Her children are constantly disturbing her, as they whine and bicker (Harwood 2). Another child is playing on the ground. The women cannot go to work to get her money to improve her life since the children demand her attention all the time. She wears out of date clothes and this shows that while tending to her children, she cannot have time for personal development (Harwood 1). The traditional society did not give women the opportunity to work and get money to improve their lifestyles.

When compared to her lover who passes by, their lives are different. Harwood gives an image of how the traditional societies made lives of men and women look different, through overburdening of women with family responsibilities. The lover has a neat head (Harwood 7), may be a nice haircut, and possible well-dressed. In contrast, the woman is not neat and her clothes are old fashioned. The privileges granted to men in the traditional societies made their lives simple, and this is why they have time to enjoy life and groom well. To the woman, the man or lover appears as a small balloon (Harwood 8), meaning he is has made an insignificant impact on the life of the women. Men did not assist women in their family chores, and the traditional society allowed the inequality in its social structures. The lover is happy he did not settle down with her, and this is seen when he says, "but for the grace of God…" (Harwood 8). This assertion shows that men understood how tedious it was to carry out family responsibilities, hence thanked God they were not partakers.

To avoid embarrassment, women pretended that their lives were running smoothly. The women ironically tell her lover that it is sweet to hear her children's chatter, watch them grow and thrive (Harwood 10-11). This claim is not true since taking care of her children has made her life look miserable. Besides, she says to the wind that the children have eaten her alive (Harwood 14), showing that deep inside her she understands how messed up her life is due to the responsibility of taking care of her children alone. In these traditional societies, women failed to accept that doing family chores and responsibilities without the assistance was a huge burden to their lives.

I choose the poem In the Park since it shows how the roles of women in the society have evolved since the 1950s. I arrived at the assertion about the poem when I compared the perspective and roles of women in the traditional societies and the current modern society. The poem shows how the position of women in the traditional families hindered their personal progress. The reader will be able to see the negative impacts of traditional roles of women.

Work Cited

Harwood, Gwen. “In the Park.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Mays, Kelly J., WW Norton & Company, 2015. Print.

October 12, 2022

Literature Sociology


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Poetry Gender Roles Society

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