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Father To Son Poem Summary in English by Elizabeth Jennings
Father To Son Poem by Elizabeth Jennings About the Poet
|Born||18 July 1926, Boston, United Kingdom|
|Died||26 October 2001, Bampton, United Kingdom|
|Education||St Anne’s College, Oxford High School|
Father To Son Poem Summary in English
This poem is a lament of the father because the chasm between his son and him has widened over the years.
The father feels that he does not understand his son although they have lived under the same roof for years. He regrets that the son seems to have become a stranger to him. The father wants to start afresh; recall moments when the son was a child. He feels that essentially, a part of the relationship between the two has been destroyed by the father.
The love the father showered upon his son fell on barren ground, i.e., it was unreciprocated. They talk to each other like strangers and there is no sign of any agreement between them. The father tried to fashion the child into a likeness of him. But they have grown apart. The father finds it impossible to share his son’s likes and dislikes.
There is total lack of communication between them. The father would want his son to return to him like the prodigal son. He would value them coming closer rather than the son moving away. The father feels he would forgive his son. Out of their grief, a new love would blossom.
As father and son, they ought to share the same world but unfortunately they cannot understand each other. The father is grieved and it is his sorrow that at times takes the form of anger. Both of them try to reach out to each other but in vain. The gulf is too wide.
Father To Son Poem Summary Questions and Answers
1. I do not understand this child
Though we have lived together now
In the same house for years.
I know Nothing of him, so try to build
Up a relationship from how
He was when small. Yet have I killed
a. Who is the ‘I’ in these lines? Who is the ‘child’?
The father is referred to as the ‘I’ in these lines. His son is the ‘child’.
b. What is his complaint?
His complaint is that he does not understand his son despite their living together.
c. What does he want to do now?
He now wants to build a relationship from the beginning.
d. What has he ‘killed’?
He has killed the connection or rapport between him and his son.
2. The seed I spent or sown it where
The land is his and none of mine?
We speak like strangers, there’s no sign
Of understanding in the air.
This child is built to my design
Yet what he loves I cannot share.
a. What has he ‘sown’?
He had nurtured the child which he compares to seeds, on love and understanding.
b. What is the relationship between them like?
The father and son are like strangers.
c. What is lacking between the two?
Sharing and understanding is lacking between the two.
d. What can he not share?
The father cannot share his son’s opinion, and his likes and dislikes.
3. Silence surrounds us. I would have
Him prodigal, returning to
His father’s house, the home he knew,
Rather than see him make and move
His world. I would forgive him too,
Shaping from sorrow a new love.
a. Explain: “Silence surrounds us”.
There is no communication between the father and the son.
b. Explain:- “I would have Him prodigal, returning to His father’s house.”
In the Bible, when the recklessly extravagant son returned, the father forgave him his earlier sins as his coming home showed his regret. Similarly, the father is prepared to forgive his son if he comes back to him.
c. Name the poetic device used in the line: “I would have Him prodigal, returning to His father’s house.”
Allusion. The prodigal son alludes to the parable of Cain and Abel from the Bible.
d. What would the father not want the son to do?
The father would not want the son to move away into his own world.
e. What would the father do if the son came back to him?
The father would forgive his son and from their sorrow love would arise again.
4. Father and son, we both must live
On the same globe and the same land,
He speaks: I cannot understand
Myself, why anger grows from grief
We each put out an empty hand,
Longing for something to forgive.
a. How do they live?
They live in the same place, yet they are very distant.
b. What emotions does the father feel?
The father is aggrieved and angry at the son distancing himself.
c. Explain: “We each put out an empty hand”.
The father and son try to reach out to each other but in vain.
d. What do they long for?
They long to forgive and forget the past and start afresh.