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Lack of Forgiveness in Lucille Clifton's poem Forgiving My Father

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The title of Lucille Clifton's poem, "forgiving my father", seems to be in sharp opposition with the poem itself. There seems to be no forgiveness, yet the title claims that it is there. The entire poem focuses on the debt of the author's father. "it is Friday." she says, "we have come to the paying of the bills." (1-2). But perhaps it doesn't necessarily mean that it is literally Friday, perhaps she just means it is the end, and maybe the debt isn't one of money, but of love. Clifton is using a monetary debt to symbolize a debt of love and affection. She uses this symbolism to show that by the end of the poem, she has forgiven her father, but it is not forgiveness as we would normally think of it.

The poem begins by talking about how it is payday, but the father, as a ghost, is asking for more time to pay. How can a ghost pay anything? Even if he could get the extension, he would never be able to pay anything because he is dead. So why does she say it is payday? Perhaps the answer lies in lines 7 and 8 when she says, "my mother's hand opens in her early grave and I hold it out ...


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