Men At Forty Poem Analysis

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In the poem “Men at Forty” by Donald Justice, the poet employs a variety of literary devices to convey the poem’s theme- that no matter old we get, we can never escape the past and the nostalgia that accompanies it. There will always be a longing for those youthful days gone by, a longing that clings to us and follows us as the years pass. Justice accomplishes this through the use of comforting, evocative images that express the speaker’s discomfort with his age, and his acknowledgement of his transition from childhood to adulthood. In addition to the vivid imagery, Justice also uses simple and straightforward diction and a wistful tone to convey the fact that the speaker still craves the simplicity of his childhood. Through the poet’s precise…show more content…
Such is shown in the third stanza, when Justice beautifully writes, “And deep in mirrors/ They rediscover/ The face of the boy as he practices tying/ His father’s tie there in secret.” These lines clearly convey the timeless image of a young boy trying to make himself appear older and masculine like his father, and the transition from the the child’s naive desire to grow up to the reality of becoming the man that the young boy wished to imitate. This heavy realization of adulthood is also conveyed in the first stanza as well, when Justice says, “Learn to close softly/ The doors to rooms they will not be/ Coming back to.” In these lines, the door symbolizes the aging process, and the things one must leave behind over the years. This paints the picture of the speaker’s transition from one stage of life to the next, and the reader can envision the scene of the speaker closing the door on his memories of his beloved childhood to open the door to maturity and responsibility. He is not only acknowledging that he can no longer live in the past, but he must continue to move forward. In another poem by Justice, “On the Death of Friends in Childhood”, he illustrates the same thematic concept of the loss of innocence and the eventual embrace of adulthood through vivid images that express the playful frolic of childhood. For instance, when Justice writes, “In games whose very names we have forgotten. Come, memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.” Much like the mental images that are created in “Men at Forty”, the pictures painted in Justice’s other works also convey the passing of one’s youth, and humanity’s natural urge to recapture
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