Incident in a Rose Garden

by Donald Justice

Start Free Trial

Who is the speaker in the poem "Incident in a Rose Garden"?

Quick answer:

There are three speakers in the poem "Incident in a Rose Garden": the gardener, the master, and Death.

Expert Answers

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

Donald Justice originally included "Incident in a Rose Garden" in his 1967 collection of poems titled Night Light. The poem is written in free verse, and it is separated in three parts, each part consisting of one speaker. The speaker in the first part is the old gardener, the speaker in the second part is the gardener's master, and the speaker in the third part is Death. Thus, there are three speakers in the poem, and they are also the only characters. Two others are mentioned, but they do not speak.

Essentially, the poem is a conversation between the three speakers, which is why it's classified as a dramatic dialogue: the gardener addresses his master, the master addresses Death, and Death addresses the master. All three parts address the readers.

In the first part, the gardener tells his master that he met Death by the roses and that he wishes to quit his job in order to see his sons and visit California before he dies. Here, the speaker conveys feelings of fear and determination.

In the second part, the master tells Death that he welcomes only friends on his property and doesn't appreciate the fact that he scared his gardener. Here, the speaker conveys feelings of courage and disapproval and even reprimands Death for his actions.

In the third part, Death tells the master that he is indeed a friend, as he knew his father and has only spoken to the gardener not to threaten or scare him, but to ask him if he could be taken to the gardener's master. Here, the speaker conveys feelings of coolness and even poise as he calmly explains to the master that he means no harm and implies the real reason and purpose behind his visit.

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