Forgiving My Father Analysis

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Application of New Criticism: forgiving my father A short synopsis of the poem “forgiving my father”, written by Lucille Clifton is that it is about a daughters recollection of her life growing up, specifically her father’s inefficiencies. Throughout the poem, the persona shifts through boots of anger, bitterness and contempt as she reflects on the experiences she had growing up. To fully grasp what the poem is about in its totality, one could ascribe to many different types of criticism however; this paper seeks to reveal the meaning of the poem using the tenets of new criticism.
New Criticism posits that in order to understand a work, one must focus solely on the work looking at, for example, its figures of speech among other elements
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In “forgiving my father” one can identify specifically cases of verbal irony. These ironies also reveal the conflicts and tensions present in the poem. The first evident of this is seen in the title of the poem. This as the title suggests that the persona was forgiving of her father’s behaviour. However, as the poem progresses, one realises that she seems not to be that forgiving. This is evident in the way she curses him using words such as, “old lecher, old liar”, (lines 9-10), and “old pauper old prisoner, old dead man” (line 20). These expressions reveal deep seated anger not indicative of one who was forgiving. By extension, it reveals the internal conflict the persona was having as she reflects on the life she has had growing up with her father and the battle to forgive or not to …show more content…
This reveals a second occurrence of verbal irony as the persona double speaks. This as here she suggests that her mother and father are much the same persons and deserving of each other however, earlier she spoke the following, “i wish you were rich so i could take it all and give the lady for she was due” (lines 10-11). In these lines, she refers to her mother as a lady and speaks to wishing she could have helped her to get what she was worth. In other words, she in lines 10-11 expresses a belief that her mother was short-changed by her father. Hence, the conflict when she reveals her thoughts of them as being one and the same. This shows that the persona was very angry as she speaks and was experiencing as true catharsis in that, no thought was given to what was being said as the internal conflict of love and hatred for her parents

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