Commentary on "My Father's Garden" by David Wagoner.

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My Father’s Garden

By David Wagoner

My Father’s Garden is a poem by David Wagoner which essentially centralizes the thematic element of beauty by portraying it in two fairly contrasting manners. The speaker is presumably a young man who expresses his skepticism and negativity towards his father’s perception of beauty. This essay will aim to examine the extended metaphor of the garden, whilst treating the poem to a thorough analysis of the literary devices utilized by the poet, to exemplify their vitality in delivering the central concepts of the poem.  

The title of the poem itself implicates the notion of beauty and pleasure, especially through the use of the word, “garden.” The visual imagery formulated through the use of the term may be associated with a sanctuary devoid of any negative emotions. It is a place where an individual becomes one with nature and consequently develops an appreciation for such simplistic forms of beauty. However, the commonplace perception of beauty is challenged in this poem through the portrayal of the speaker’s father’s interpretation. He is evidently enamoured by his “scrapyard,” despite the fact that the speaker harshly characterises it as being a somewhat “satanic” place.

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The speaker’s distaste and fear towards his father’s workplace is palpable through his hellish descriptions of the “scrapyard.” Wagoner utilizes very cacophonic terms, such as “satanic cauldrons,” “demons”, and “dragons.” These harsh sounds denote a dense of wickedness and tortuous affliction. There is an evident discrepancy between the speaker’s views on the “scrapyard” and that of his father. This may be inferred from his statement that the “scrapyard” is his father’s “kind of garden.” This phrase is rather ironic when juxtaposed with the commonplace definition of a garden, which does not ordinarily comprise of “sewing machines” and “cogwheels.”

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