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Father to Son

1 mark
Identify the phrases and lines that indicate distance between father and son.
‘I do not understand this child’, ‘we speak like strangers, there’s no sign of
understanding in the air’, ‘what he loves I cannot share’, ‘Silence surrounds us’.

2 marks
I do not understand this child
Though we have lived together now
In the same house for years. I know
Nothing of him, so try to build
Up a relationship from how
He was when small.

a) Name the poem and the poet. Who is the speaker in these lines?
The name of the poem is ‘Father to Son’. The poet is Elizabeth Jennings. The speaker
in these lines is the father.

b) What does the speaker reveal? Does it strike odd? Why? Why not?
The speaker reveals that even though he and his son have lived under the same roof
for many years, there is not much understanding between the two. It strikes as odd
because a father and son should not have a strained relationship like the one
mentioned in the lines.

c) What does the speaker intend to do?

The speaker intends to make an effort to build up a relationship with his son and
make it as good as it was when the son was small.

Does the poem talk of an exclusively personal experience or is it fairly universal?

The poem does talk of an exclusively personal experience. However, we can also call it
fairly universal because a conflict like this is quite common in many households. It is
also known as generation gap.

How is the father’s helplessness brought out in the poem?

The father expresses his helplessness several times in the poem when he says that he
does not understand his son.

Does the poem have a consistent rhyme scheme?

The first two stanzas have the abc abc rhyme scheme. However, this scheme is not
followed by the poet in the third and fourth stanza.

What does the speaker say about father-son relationship?

The speaker tells us that there seems to be a conflict, a lack of understanding and a gap
between the father and son. The father realises this and wants to make an effort to
bridge this gap.

What do you think is responsible for the distance between father and son?
The difference of opinions, lack of understanding and love is responsible for the
distance between the father and the son.

Why do you think does the father appear so helpless?

The father appears so helpless because the son has a mind of his own. They do not
share any love or any understanding. The son appears to be at some place far away
either literally or metaphorically and the father is helpless at the situation.

How can you infer that the father wishes his son to remain at home with him?
The father expresses in the last stanza that he would have him back like the proverbial
son who came back home after leaving it for some time. Cordial relations can still be
established if they both make effort and show forgiveness. The prodigal son was
forgiven and accepted.

What emotions does the poet undergo?

The emotions of confusion, perplexity, grief and also anger are expressed by the
speaker in his confession as he analyzes what could have gone wrong in the relationship
between the father and the son.

4 marks
Yet have I killed
The seed I spent or sown it where
The land is his and none of mine?
We speak like strangers, there’s no sign
Of understanding in the air
This child is built to my design
Yet what he loves I cannot share

a) What does the speaker mean by ‘seed’? Why is he so sure?

By ‘seed’ the speaker means that he is the father who has missed the link with his son
somehow and seems to have sown the seed where there is no sense of belonging. He
refers to the upbringing of son and is sure that there is no communication between

b) How do you think the two –father and son exist?

The two, father and son exist like total strangers with a wide gap of communication
between them. There is no reference to any conflict but there is unhappiness because
of lack of understanding.

c) Why is the father complaining so much about his son?

The father is complaining so much about the son. This is evident from the fact that the
father is repeatedly referring to a lack of understanding and communication between

Silence surrounds us. I would have

Him prodigal, returning to
His father’s house, the home he knew.

a) Why does the speaker say ‘silence surrounds us’?

The speaker says ‘Silence surrounds us’ because the father and son are like strangers
to each other and even in the presence of each other there is silence and lack of

b) What does the speaker wish? Does it remind you of some familiar tale?
The speaker wishes for his son to return home. It reminds us of the proverbial son
who after leaving home and experiencing the world outside decides to return home to
his family who are still willing to welcome him back.

c) What is the poetic device used in ‘Silence surrounds us’?

The poetic device is Alliteration.

Rather than see him make and move

His world. I would forgive him too,
Shaping from sorrow a new love.

a) Who is ‘him’ in the first line? Who wants to see him make and move?
‘Him’ in the first line is the son and the father wants his extravagant to return home.

b) Explain the first line mentioned above.

The father wishes that his son should return home and be in his own familiar
surroundings rather than go out and establish himself outside in the world which is

c) Why does the speaker want to forgive him?

The father wants to forgive his son because he is keen to have him back and re-
establish the relationship with him which he used to share when the son was small
and dependent on him.

We each put out an empty hand,

Longing for something to forgive.

a) Do you think a reconciliation is possible and how?

Yes, I think reconciliation is possible between the father and son. Both agree to sink
their differences and start afresh.

b) Put out an empty hand. What does this signify?

The line signifies that the father and son have to extend a hand of forgiveness to end
the conflict.

c) Name the poem and the poet.

The name of the poem is ‘Father to Son’ and the poet is Elizabeth Jennings.

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