Incident in a Rose Garden

by Donald Justice

Start Free Trial

In "Incident in a Rose Garden," how does Death perceive himself?

Quick answer:

In "Incident in a Rose Garden" by Donald Justice, Death sees himself as patient, for he enjoys arriving early (at least according to most people). Death also presents himself as confident and even polite.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Donald Justice's poem "Incident in a Rose Garden," Death presents himself as confident, polite, and patient. When the gardener sees Death standing among the roses, he recognizes Death at once. He is dressed all in black, and his mouth is open. He beckons the gardener, but the terrified man turns and flees. Death seems to know exactly what (or whom) he wants, even though the gardener certainly does not want to cooperate.

The speaker then goes into the garden to meet with Death, who, to him, looks like a "Spanish waiter." Death has "the air of someone" who thinks of himself as patient because he enjoys arriving early (at least with regard to other people's perspectives). The speaker watches as Death pinches off the blooms of the roses and smells each one before letting it fall to the ground.

The speaker tells Death that he is not welcome, but Death merely grins. He is confident, and his eyes light up. He politely removes a glove and holds out his hand to the speaker in "greeting." Then Death speaks, telling the speaker that he knew the speaker's father, that they were actually "friends at the end." Further, he never really threatened the gardener. The gardener was mistaken, for Death doesn't want him. He has come for the speaker himself, and it seems that Death is perfectly confident that he will always get exactly what he wants.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial