Incident in a Rose Garden

by Donald Justice

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What is the personification in this story? Is it personifying Death to a waiter?

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In "Incident in a Rose Garden," the poet, Donald Justice, personifies death as a thin man dressed in black "like a Spanish waiter" who stands waiting in a garden. He badly frightens the gardener, who recognizes him, quits his position, and flees the garden.

Death's eyes light up when the master approaches to challenge him, and he removes his glove to offer a handshake of greeting with "a little cage of bone." He is courtly, yet menacing, as he waits patiently for the man he has come for. He literally takes time to stop and smell the roses, as he is in no hurry to deliver what is inevitable.

There is one other minor use of personification in the poem; in the poem's third line, the gardener comes running for his master, and the poem's speaker notes that "Fear had given him legs." In this case, fear is also personified, as it bestows strength upon the rattled gardener.

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Yes, that would be personification exactly. It starts as soon as Justice has the gardener refer to death as "he," and says that he "stood there." Any time a writer gives an inanimate object (or, in this case, abstract idea) human identity, that's personification.

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