Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The Park - Analysis

'The Park' is a free verse work written in 2013. It is important to consider 'The Park' in context of a particular socio-political climate. In a world racked with terrorism, schisms in churches, a worsening political climate, and threats ranging from climate change to a worsening economy.

In this context, it is clear that the author is showing the various stages of a single lifespan in this poem. Analysed stanza by stanza, the descriptions are clear.

Stanza three, "The child cries... he reaches up into the sky". This is the early stage of any life, where there is a great need to be rescued. The mother figure provides comfort, provides rescue, and then sends the young child on his way again. Such is the beginning of any life.
It is also a part of a lifespan where there is a perceived need for rescue. This may occur at any age, and is characterised by an absolution of personal responsibility and desire for a greater force to be responsible (whether this is a parent, partner, economy, government, or something more exotic). The intent is clear, to be in this state is to be a child, free of responsibility but also unable to engage fully with the world.

Stanza two, "The young girl runs alongside the path... Wishing she could see what the balloon sees". Both a description of youth and an allegory for a consumer-driven culture. The young girl is running along, pulling a balloon filled with helium behind her. Yet even as she is delighted to be running with her balloon, she is also filled with longing for a different perspective.
It is clear that the balloon represents consumerism, that preoccupation with items and objects being dragged along, slowing us as we move through society and through our lives. The desire to see from a different perspective is a clear demonstration of the need for people to move to a post-consumer society, where there is freedom to move as the wind takes us, not encumbered by a desire for more and more possessions and status.

Stanzas four and five are closely related, both providing an example of someone who has isolated themselves from the rest of society. "The woman sits under a tree... Immersed in her book". It becomes apparent that this woman represents a time in the life when there is a desire and need for solitude, often this is the case when a person first moves out of the 'nest' of their parent's home and support. "The lovers relax... To themselves they are alone" is another clear example of the desire for solitude, even if it is with another person. In this case, the life stage demonstrated is the first relationship where only the partner matters, and all else can be safely ignored. While it may or may not be the case that it is safe to ignore all else, both of these stanzas represent the desire for solitude.

Stanza six takes solitude to the logical conclusion. "The dog runs... Not heeding distant shouts... Freedom, for a moment". The quest for freedom may be achieved for a moment, but the consequences, the "distant shouts", may be severe when they must be faced. In life, regardless of aims or achievements, there is no true freedom without consequence.

Stanza seven describes the end of a lifespan, as well as a situation in life where there is no progress. "The old women laugh... Sharing stories of youth... Only existing in memories". While the women are sharing stories, over and over again, they are not creating any new stories or memories. This clearly describes the scenario of someone who is stuck in their life, whether career, relationship, or another measure, unable to progress and only capable of repeating the same stories over and over again.

Throughout this analysis the old man has been ignored so far. The old man appears in stanza one with "The old man sits and smiles... Throwing bread to the ducks" and in stanza eight "The old man sits and smiles... sharing secrets with his ducks". There is a great deal of dispute concerning the role of the old man in this work. A cursory examination of the text would suggest that he provides the end of a life's journey, perhaps demonstrating dementia as a consequence of old age. However, the ducks "worshipping the giant bringing them manna" suggests that he is to be construed as more than simply a man, but perhaps a divine being. There is also the line "Knowing all that passes in his domain", which strongly suggests that the old man possess omniscience within his "domain", a trait commonly possessed by deities. Regardless, the old man also serves to bookend the work.

There is also significant debate surrounding the significance of the ducks. Some authors believe that the ducks signify a particular socio-political discourse, others feel that they represent others who have impact on our lives. This essay shall leave their significance as an exercise for the reader.

Overall, 'The Park' is an important work in the collection of social commentary produced during such a troubled time in Australia.

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