The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Father and Son” is a dramatic lyric in four stanzas, inclining not quite decisively to blank verse. The neutrality of the “and” in the title understates the poem’s tenor, suggesting neither the son’s anxiety in coming to terms with his father nor the inevitable one-sidedness of their relationship. The speaker of the poem need not be understood as Stanley Kunitz; references to time and place are not indubitably autobiographical. The son speaks in a direct, if elliptical, manner. He recounts a journey from the “suburbs,” through the “sleeping country where [he] was young,” and thence to the edge of a forested pond, where his father may have died.

The opening line implies the urban origin of this journey, however, and suggests that just as the son moved toward the forest from the suburbs, so had he recently exited the city. The first stanza also makes clear that the son is pursuing his father through time. The speaker’s narrative begins with dusk, but implies in the opening word, “Now,” a preceding day. As the first twelve lines of his narrative conclude, he has fully entered the night, thus giving the sense of a complete day.

In the second stanza, the son asks how he shall convey to his father his “fable” and “fears.” His life is troubled by a “chasm,” representing not only the distance between the dead father and himself, but also a sundered family, which “lost” the house the father had built. A...

(The entire section is 493 words.)