Discoveries deepen our understandings of ourselves and the world and have a transformative effect on those who discover. In William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, and Gwen Harwood’s poem ‘The Glass Jar’, the authors use the aracterisation of main characters in their texts to explore the ways in which discovery affects people and how it changes their perspectives, leading to deeper and broader understandings of themselves and their worlds.
The characters of the boy in ‘The Glass Jar’ and Miranda in The Tempest are important in the exploration of the effects of discovery and how it enables people to change in relation to their environments and understandings of self. Together, the texts create a picture of the way in which discovery can affect people and their understandings of themselves and the world. The boy in ‘The Glass Jar’ is characterised by the poet as someone who is innocent, using futile means to try and protect himself from the dark and from his nightmares, while not fully understanding the reality of the world he lives in.
A child one summer’s evening soaked a glass jar in the reeling sun, hoping to keep when day was done… This pulse of light beside his bed. ” Through this symbolism of light as representative of good and the foolish belief that the boy can trap sunlight, the boy’s naivety and underdeveloped understandings of the world are written into his character. This childish innocence is contrasted with the second half of the poem after “hope fell headlong from eagle heights. ” The metaphor represents the boy’s loss of innocence and the way in which his discovery has affected his understanding of the world.
The boy’s shocking and unexpected loss of innocence changes his view of the world as this discovery relates to the boy’s understanding of sex and aids in his psychosexual development. While seemingly important in the development of the boy, the discovery broadens his understanding of the world, but has hugely negative effects on his perceptions of life, his vision becomes darker and the world seems scarier to him. Similarly to the boy, Miranda in The Tempest is raised in a world of naivety and innocence which doesn’t allow her to find out the truth and deepen her understanding of the world.
Although she is curious, her father withholds information from her, keeping her in a state of innocence and unknowing. When Ferdinand, she first man she “e’er sighed for” arrives into her world, she is similarly forced to make a discovery which broadens her understanding of the world, and unlike the boy in ‘The Glass Jar’ gives her a positive understanding of relationships and the nature of sex. “What is ita spirit? it carries a brave form”. As Miranda questions who Ferdinand is and discovers that he is a man, she finally understands a great part of the world which had been previously hidden to her.
In questioning who he is, Miranda discovers people and begins to develop appropriate skills to relate to men and the rest of the world. Her understandings of her wider environment and of other people are broadened and deepened through her discovery of people apart from herself and her father, and her feelings towards people of the opposite sex. In ‘The Glass Jar’, Gwen Harwood explores how the young boy’s discovery affects his views of the world and his understandings of self. The boy, upon discovering the nature of sex, has his perceptions of the world deepened, but negatively affected.
He is changed greatly by the discovery which “no child could read or realise. Once more” Harwood uses caesura to amplify and explore the effects of shock on the boy by halting the flow of the sentence. This line explores how difficult the discovery is for the boy to fully understand, as well as how it has transformed him from child, to a person who is no longer blinded by childish innocence. This discovery challenges the boy’s self-identity in a way which gives him new understandings of self, but also has a detrimental effect on his self-image.
Harwood writes “to bed and to worse dreams he went”, using symbolism of dreams to explore how the boy’s discovery has brought his identity to a place where rather than help him, it has hurt him. His nightmares were the motivator behind his discovery, and now that he has discovered, his understanding of self and self-confidence has been eroded so deeply that he suffers from worse nightmares. The boy in ‘The Glass Jar’ is negatively affected by his discovery, but the events after his revelation are important in demonstrating how these discoveries deepen one’s understanding of oneself and relation to the world.
Miranda, upon realising that Ferdinand is a man, and having her understandings of the world deepened, begins to develop a stronger sense of self and recognises how she fits into the world and who she is. “I am your wife if you will marry me” she proposes, using first person language to refer to herself and her understanding of where her life must now go. She gains the confidence and a positive drive to live in accordance with her new understandings of herself. She is quick to assert herself and show how her discovery has led to deeper understandings of herself and her place in the world.
Knowing that men exist outside of her father gives her knowledge which she uses to develop her identity and understanding of self. Both characters in the texts make discoveries which have the transformative effects of deepening their understandings of their wider environments, the world and themselves. Shakespeare and Harwood explore discovery and effectively demonstrate how discovery not only has a great effect on people, but develops their knowledge and connection with the world and themselves which is a vital factor in their development.