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Poem Analysis (Judith Wright - Halfway)

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Judith Wright's poem Halfway presents readers with a brilliant portrait of humanity's struggle and search for spirituality, brushstroked with vivid imagery and framed with strong metaphorical subjects. It is Wright's effective use of words that forms an impressive depiction of a journey taken not only by one small tadpole, but by all mankind.

Remarkable not only because of the poem's unusual story - the unfortunate fate of an ice-trapped tadpole - it is made even more memorable by Wright's image-evoking descriptions throughout. In the first stanza, 'He hung at arrest; displayed as it were glass' already introduces us to the tadpole's odd, darkly humorous state of affairs. Wright continues to illustrate the tadpole, revealing him as having a frog's head, hinder legs and budding hands. The 'comic O of his mouth' and 'gold rimmed eyes of lustrous glaze' effectively forms in the mind's eye a wide-eyed, wet-eyed creature, confused and desperate to reach a place of belonging.

Most evident of all is the tadpole lending itself as man's representative; imagined easily as a struggling person, clambering for distant, greener pastures. Wright strengthens this parallel by giving voice to the creature; two whole stanzas are his own. Recounting his fate in a philosophical, humanistic way, the tadpole explains what he can, 'I am neither one thing nor the other, not here nor there... half made for water, half air,' and questions what he can't, 'is that world real, or a dream I cannot reach?' Of course on surface level, this tadpole's words are just yearnings to find his feet on land. Beyond that, however, Wright attaches significance by voicing the creature with questions that are common among men. People are able to recognise the tadpole's voice as their own; relating to the tadpoles struggles as he is trapped within the transitional grey areas of life, wishing only to belong.

It is Wright's illustrative language that weaves the tone of the poem; a feeling of futility and ambivalence permeating throughout, all underpinned with a sense of irony. In only the second line the tone is set; the dismal fate of the tadpole being described as a 'freakish joke.' Hopelessness grows heavier when Wright's illustrates the distance between the tadpole and his 'old friends'; 'beneath fellows huddle and nuzzle each to each... while motionless here I stare where I cannot go.' Even his chance of rescue is crushed when a 'vague divinity looming in stooped surprise' appears, as the tadpole 'looked ...for death or rescue.' Not surprisingly, neither death nor rescue was the narrator's task and the creature, as well as the reader, are left feeling powerless. Effective images of betrayal, despair and loneliness begin to take shape in a humanistic way, as the tadpole stands unaided, abandoned by his friends, made fun of by the weather and deserted by a distant deity.




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