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My Son, My Executioner Essay

692 words - 3 pages

From a global viewpoint, the passing of generations of the human race is a smooth and natural cycle, one generation bringing another generation into this world, as they themselves begin to leave it. From the perspective of the individual, however, this cycle can bring about a mixture of feelings, from pride to depression, as they watch their own lives fall second to that of their children. Donald Hall’s “My son, my executioner” and Rita Dove’s “Daystar” describe how the birth and growth of a child is a massive turning point in a person’s life and can be looked at as either the continuance of one’s legacy or the withering of one’s own life, depending on the viewpoint.
Donald Hall’s “My son, my executioner” describes the speaker’s acknowledgement that the arrival of the speaker’s son signals the beginning of the speaker’s own coming death, but muses that the child will carry on their legacy. The speaker holds the child “in [their] arms” (line 4) and reflects upon the situation. The speaker refers to the son as their “instrument of immortality” (line 6), its “cries and hunger” (line 7) signaling their “bodily decay” (line 8). This idea represents the speaker’s acknowledgement that they have continued their own cycle, completing one of the last great accomplishments of their life and passing on the lineage to the next generation. The speaker does not take this realization of mortality in a negative manner, though, stating that though they thought themselves to once “[seem] to live forever” (line 10), they are proud to watch their once immortality pass onto their son, “observ[ing] enduring life” (line 11) in the child as the speaker and their spouse “start to die together” (line 12). This poem speaks to the transition from invincible youth to parenthood, the realization that one will inevitably die. The speaker accepts this truth as they look upon their continued legacy in the flesh of their own son, soon to adopt their own lost immortality, and cherishes the thought of raising them into the world in the company of their...

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