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Introduction & Overview of Incident in a Rose Garden by Donald Justice

This Study Guide consists of approximately 18 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Incident in a Rose Garden.
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Incident in a Rose Garden Summary & Study Guide Description

Incident in a Rose Garden Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on Incident in a Rose Garden by Donald Justice.

Donald Justice included "Incident in a Rose Garden" in his 1967 collection of poems, Night Light , and revised the poem for his Selected Poems , published by Atheneum, in 1979. Unlike most of Justice's other poems, "Incident in a Rose Garden" tells a story. The three characters, the Gardener, the Master, and Death, play out a familiar scene in which Death, whom Justice describes in stereotypical fashion as adorned in black and being "thin as a scythe," mistakes the identity of one character for another. The language is simple, yet formal, the dialogue straightforward, the theme clear: Death may come when least expected; live life with that thought in mind. Other themes addressed include the relationship of human beings to nature, self-deception, and fate versus self-creation. In its use of stock characters and situation and its obvious moral, the poem resembles a medieval allegory.

In the revised version of "Incident in a Rose Garden," Justice moves from an objective point of view, which contains only the dialogue of the characters, to a first person point of view in which the Master relates the story. This change allows for a more detailed description of the Gardener and Death and gives the surprise ending more bite. The relationship between a consciousness of death and an appreciation of life is a theme in Wallace Stevens's poetry, which Justice notes as a primary influence on his own writing. Justice dedicates the poem to poet Mark Strand who, like Justice, writes about the presence of death in everyday life and the ways in which the self responds to and is shaped by that presence. Strand was a student of Justice's at the University of Iowa.

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Poetry for Students
Incident in a Rose Garden from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.