The poem “Walking Away” by Cecil Day Lewis was written for his son Sean. The author uses strong imagery and symbolism throughout the poem to relate to his son leaving home and going out on his own. Thru these images and symbols the reader is able to understand the difficulty he, as a father, is having with letting go.
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This poem opens with a father remembering back on his son’s childhood, “It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day-“(1), that his son is leaving home and going into the world alone. The father begins by looking back on “a sunny day with the leaves just turning,” (2) which makes the reader think of the changing seasons. The change of seasons symbolizes the beginning of change in their lives, both living in the world without the other. Lewis paints the picture of “â€¦a satellite / Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away.” (4-5). The image of a satellite’s orbit, such as a satellite orbiting the Earth, helps illustrate how the father feels about the relationship with his son. Just as a satellite knows only its orbit, the father knows that his son only knows life with his father. When Lewis talks about being wrenched out of orbit, he is talking about the jolt of realizing that his son is leaving home. The very last part of the first stanza talks about how something taken from its orbit will drift apart, the father is talking about his son going out on his own and the fear of his son growing distant.
The second stanza opens as the father watches as his son walk away toward school. The author’s words: “With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free / Into a wilderness,” (8-9) and the use of the word pathos allows the reader to visualize two different feelings as the father watches his son. The first being a feeling of compassion or sorrow that as he watches his son walking away the father worries that his son has no life experience. The other image is that of a father watching his son takes steps toward growing up and learning the lessons only life can teach. The father calls his son “â€¦a half-fledged thing set free” (8) which draws on the images of birds and other animals pushing offspring out into the wilderness to learn on their own. In this case the wilderness is the school that the boy is going to. “The gait of one / Who finds no path where the path should be.(9-10)”, the author talks about a path which symbolizes his son’s life and uses the term ‘gait’, or a way of walking, to describe the way his son will go about his life. The first line of that quote symbolizes his son being on his own, having his own way of life, and signifies that the father and son no longer walk life in the same way. When the author talks about not finding a path that should be there, he symbolizes his sons attempts to find the same path that he and his father shared for so long. It is this line that sets the son to finding his own path in life to live the way he chooses.
As the third stanza begins, “That hesitant figure,” (11), the father sees an unsure boy trying to find his own way. “Eddying away / Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,”(11-12) this simile draws images of a wind that loosens dandelion seeds that have matured and carries them away to grow into their plant and bear their own seeds. The next couple of lines all work together around the same idea but if u break them up you get a better image of what the author or father is trying to say, “Has something I never quite grasp to convey / About nature’s give-and-takeâ€¦”(13-14). These lines talk about how the father recognizes or sees something in his son that gives him hope. He admits that he was never able to understand the give and take of nature. He was never able to explain the ups and downs, or highs and lows of life or to deal with them to his son. But the authors wording makes one imagine that even with all the worry and uneasiness the father feels about letting his son go, he feels he is ready. The last bit of this stanza talks about, “â€¦the small, the scorching / Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.”(14-15) which symbolizes the harshness of life and the pain of future things to come as his son finds his own path. But the author knows that all though these experiences will be hard on his son, he also knows that these things will also make him stronger, this knowledge allows the father to look at his son leaving and thus feeling more secure that he will find his way.
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“I have had worse partings, but none that so / Gnaws at my mind.”(16-17) symbolizes the feelings of the father as he’s letting go of his son. He’s had worse goodbyes and had to lost people before that he took very hard, but none of those things have ever bothered him as much as letting his son go. The last lines of this poem are probably this most important, “How selfhood begins with a walking away, / And love is proves in the letting go.”(19-20), these lines sum up this poem at its core message. The only way to find your own path in life is if you walk away, from the safety and protection of your parents. The final line is the most important because the father finally realizes that for him to truly get over his son going away he must let him go. In that act he will be able to show his son how much he truly loves him and that he has faith his son will learn to find his own path in life.
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