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Death and Haunting Memories in Gretel in Darkness by Louise Gluck and Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Poets Louise Gluck and Percy Bysshe Shelley use symbols and poetic techniques to convey themes of human experience such as death and haunting memories. In the poem, “Gretel in darkness,” Louise Gluck draws out a childhood fairytale and suffuses it with two fundamental human experiences - guilt and fear. In “Ozymandias”, Percy Bysshe Shelley discusses the idea that time and nature stops for no one. The poems reinforce the main themes by a variety of techniques.

Louise Gluck’s, “Gretel in darkness” is a haunting poem about the horrors the speaker, Gretel, faces and tries so hard to forget. The poem takes place after the witch’s death and Gretel has saved her brother and herself from her torment. Everything should be fine, Gretel says, “This is the world we wanted. All who would have seen us dead are dead.” This is suggestive of a dream that is achieved and portraying a character that is full of urgency, bitterness and violence. This contradicts with the title, “in darkness”, giving it an ironic tone. Although she feels regret for this unimaginable act, she originally did it for her brother. On the other hand it also seems Gretel is unsatisfied since she feels all this guilt and is haunted by the death of the witch, the witch Gretel killed. “I hear the witch’s cry,” Gretel states.
The poem begins in the past tense, suggesting the speaker has overcome her enemies and has achieved a degree of emotional closure. The majority of the poem is from Gretel's present tense point of view, and although she believes she has survived and is safe at home, she is still haunted by the memories of the burning witch. Gluck represents Gretel as a terrified and distressed adult. There seems to be this yearning to be loved, combined with a childhood m...

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...ed or backward thinking. The poem forces the reader to dig deeper and examine the indignant fear children feel from the darkness. Throughout the poem, there is a sense the reader is looking at Gretel through the eyes of a psychologist, listening to her devolving her deepest secrets about how the darkness has rendered her almost helpless or defenceless. Gretel is yearning for answers to the question “Why do I not forget” as she is haunted by the death of the witch. She confronts Hansel, “No one remembers. Even you, my brother / as though it never happened / But I killed for you.” Here Gretel has realised she has lost her innocence and her childhood has been robbed, like so many children of today’s world. In the poem, symbolism is used as a powerful technique to reinforce the darkness Gretel feels but also relates this common human experience, fear, to our own life.
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