Francis Webb wrote this poem Harry in 1964, in Parramatta Psychiatric Hospital, when he was there for schizophrenia.
The poem is about a young boy of 15 Harry, who had been placed there because he was called a Mongol. Today we would call them Down Syndrome. It is the day they have to write letters home to the loved ones. He watches him as he sits in his striped shirt at a table with all the tools he needs to write this letter. With no formal education does this boy know the alphabet to be able to put words together? He seems engrossed in his work and keeps on writing.
As he watches, he is asking himself if this young boy belongs here. Is it because of how he looks with food around his mouth and his distorted face, unable to communicate with people? The screams of the children when they see him or the adults looking in disgust at an imbecile walking the streets. Put him away so nobody can see him, so they are safe of the ugliness, and everything is perfect in their world.
What about Harry he hasn’t done anything wrong, nobody comes to visit him. He lives in a world of sickness and abuse, no one to love him or hold him for comfort. He is just hidden away out of sight out of mind. As in the last line of the poem, each week he writes a letter and addresses it to no known address.

4 thoughts on “Harry

  1. Dear Jennifer
    I’m thrilled Michael allowed my Shakespeare unit to view your blogs. I enjoyed your analyses of ‘Harry’. It was very personable through the experience; as a reader, I was engaged through your use of emotional language to interpret Webb’s poem. I felt as though you made a personable connection to this character, through your use of details as you described the struggles he faced. I appreciated that you gave us readers a historical background to help the story and the fact that you highlighted the concept of Mongol and how we refer to it in today’s society.
    The only criticism I have concerns are regarding Grammar
    – “There was a young boy of 15 Harry”: “the story is about a 15-year-old Harry” (you give the reader a direct reference without them having to guess)
    – “with all the things he needs to write this letter”: “with all the tools needed to write this letter.”
    – “Digust”: “disgust”


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Jennifer for all the amazing work you have done this semester. You have come such a long way from your initial self-doubts through to such confidence and enthusiasm. I love so much that you have found a passion in studying literature- and this is chiefly because of your own real efforts. Travel well!
    Good wishes

    Liked by 1 person

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