English A1 HL - Detailed Plan & Commentary on Planting a Sequoia

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Angad Chaturvedi

First Impression:

  • The first impression of the poem which I gathered from the title made me think that the poem was about appreciating nature however this was significantly different from the actual theme of the poem.
  • Upsetting, yet towards the end the tree is a symbol of hope and how ‘good things’ can still happen after ‘bad things’.
  • One of the most noticeable things is the personification of the tree. [poem is directed to the tree; it’s referred to as “you”.]
  • Speaker is a Father talking about planting a tree to represent the death of his first born infant. [refers to Sicilian tradition of planting an olive or a fig tree at the birth of the first born son]. Olive and fig trees are  “a sign that the earth has one more life to bear” and they bear fruit which symbolizes how the sons will have more children whereas the sequoia planted to present this infant’s death bears no fruit and so represents the end of both the infant’s life and legacy.
  • The poem literally and figuratively refers to the tree as a symbol of the infant’s death.


  • Although the poem never states that the narrator is the father and not the mother, I can conclude that it’s the father as the Sicilian tradition is that the father plants a tree.
  • In my opinion, the lack of a rhyme scheme represents how unpredictable life is. 
  • Tone: mournful, “rain blackened the horizon”; leading into wistful, “I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father’s orchard” and finally hopeful towards the end, “when our family is no more”… “I want you to stand among strangers”.
    This tone helps the reader to empathize with the speaker as they go through the same emotions as him.
  • Mention of the “birth cord” makes the reader realize how young the man’s son was.
  • Fourth paragraph talks of the tree and nature like they are child and parent; i.e. nature is raising the tree. Figurative meaning [add quotes]
  • A lock of hair is supposed to represent the essence of a person and so by burying the lock of hair with the seed, the father is hoping that the sequoia will somehow carry forward the essence of his son.
  • Theme: planting a sequoia to represent the death of a father’s first born son.
  • Structure: 5 stanzas, 5 lines each.
  • Poem addressed to tree. [apostrophe]

Literary Devices:

Visual, “rain blackened the horizon” and tactile, “cold winds kept it over the pacific”, imagery is used in the first paragraph to set the gloomy atmosphere for the poem.

Fourth paragraph uses auditory, olfactory and visual imagery to stimulate the reader’s senses. “days softened by the circuit of bees”, “nights scented with the ocean fog”, “bathed in western light”

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Elemental empathy, “the sky above us stayed the dull gray”.

Organic imagery in the form of the father feeling depressed and mournful yet towards the end the tree brings him hope.

No assonance.

No consonance.

No onomatopoeia.

Personification as mentioned in first impressions.

No metaphors or similes.

Lack of literary devices shows the reader how this poem doesn’t focus on other worldly, distant, figurative aspects but instead focuses on how harsh and plain life is.

Background of the poet:

Poet, critic, and best-selling anthologist, Dana Gioia is one of America’s leading contemporary men of letters. Winner of ...

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