“The Hospital Window” by James Dickey is an emotional poem about a son’s struggle to cope with his father’s imminent demise. This poem incorporates figurative language as well as metaphors that create a story of emotion. It evokes such true emotion by drawing the reader into the fidelity of the relationship between a son and his father faced with the reality of death. Not only death in a physical sense, but also the journey one takes to reach that point and the transcendence of faith. Each element of the poem is a cliffhanger for the next line, resulting in a read that sparks the true creative power of the readers’ mind.
A son who is visiting his father in the hospital narrates the poem. In the beginning of the poem, the reader is greeted by the line “I have just come down from my father”(Dickey line 1). This stanza leads into the nature of the poem. It can be interpreted that the son is grieving and that “coming down” is a metaphor for the son’s belief that his father has reached a spiritual point, and is starting to rise above him, as if reaching the afterlife in heaven. This can only be deducted after grasping the style of the poem. Upon first read, the reader would simply deduce the stanza’s literal meaning: the son has gone down an elevator and is now on the street. After further observation, it should be noted that the same line that begins the poem also ends it, which confirms the writer’s intention for it to be figurative.
The poem focuses on the son’s feelings and thoughts as he is looking up at what he perceives to be his father’s hospital window. The second stanza concretes the literal foundation for the poem—the son is despondent about the gravity of the situation revolving around his father’s cond...
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... not afraid for his life, because he knows that through this religious experience, he will have the same fate as his father. It is like his father is already in heaven and reaching out to his son, letting him know that everything is going to be okay.
Dickey is a mastermind at truly evoking mental images and feedback from the reader through his brilliant writing style. By the end of the poem, the reader has felt as if he or her has ridden on a roller coaster of a keen portrayal of the reality of death, the sentiment felt by those left behind by the dead, and also the power of faith. The ending line of the poem now makes sense to the reader. The son has come down from his father. He has accepted the fact that his father will die and can now be at peace with it.
Dickey, James. Drowning with Others. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1962.
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