Examining “My Son, My Executioner”
Poets.org states Donald Hall, the author of “My Son, My Executioner”, was born in 1928 in Hamden, Connecticut. As an adolescent he began writing. At sixteen he attended the Bread-Loaf Writer’s Conference, and in the same year had his first work published. Hall graduated in 1951 from Harvard University in Boston with a BA. In 1953 he graduated from the University of Oxford in England. Hall has published many books of poetry, edited textbooks and anthologies, written autobiographies, and has won many awards. In 1972 he married the poet Jane Kenyon. In 1995 Kenyon died from leukemia. Hall’s “My Son, My Executioner” was written in 1955. “My Son, My Executioner” by Donald Hall out of Literature and the Writing Process, contains a lot of symbolism, irony, and some contradictions. It focuses on the speaker’s child. The child is an infant, and the speaker is likely the author. The poem discusses struggles new parents feel as they attempt to bond with their new child. The title “My Son My Executioner” sets the mood for the irony of the poem. The speaker seems pessimistic about parenthood, saying their small newborn son’s new life is the parent’s demise. The writer exaggerates the fact the being a parent is very demanding with irony throughout the poem. Parents generally have mixed emotions as they are giving up who they once were so that they may now bring a new life into the world. The first stanza begins with irony, “My son, my executioner, I take you in my arms, quiet and small and just astir, and whom my body warms”. “My executioner” implies the son is killing his father. The first stanza is also symbolic of the parent’s new responsibility to their new child. The father is holding his son who is “astir” or up and about, or moving around, and warming the little child with his own body heat. This implies the father loves his child. He is caring for the child. This is ironic as the son is the father’s executioner. Most would be...
Cited: "Donald Hall." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
"Writing About Poetic Language." Literature and the Writing Process. Boston: Longman, 2011. 363. Print.
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