What type of poem is "Incident in a Rose Garden"?

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Incident in a Rose Garden” by Donald Justice is primarily a narrative poem. Such poems tell a story, similar to prose; they often contain characters, a plot, conflict, and resolution. They are frequently connected to the oral literary tradition in that the narrative element in them implies an audience who might be listening to the story being told or read aloud. This particular poem is written in free verse—there is no rhyming scheme, although the uniform shortness of the verses indicates a fairly even spoken rhythm.

In the poem, the characters are the Gardener, the Master, and Death, and the story implies the arrival of Death and his patient wait for the right man—the man he has come for.

Due to its structure, this work can also be called a dramatic poem; although similar to a narrative poem, this type of poetry is usually constructed so that the characters in it enter into dialogues which tell the story and thus carry the message of the work.

Additionally, given the themes it covers (fear of death and its inevitability, the vain illusion of the living that they will never die), the poem can also be labeled reflective. Such poems imply meditations on universal matters such as life and death or the point of living (here reflected in the Gardener’s wishes). In this case, the story of the poem is an allegory for how people accept one of the key events in every life: death.

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