Forgiving A Debt: A Reading of Lucille Clifton's "forgiving my father"

Forgiving A Debt: A Reading of Lucille

Clifton's "forgiving my father"

Lucille Clifton's "forgiving my father" begins with the speaker declaring that it is the end of the week and the bills are due. The speaker then reveals that both of her parents are dead, yet she is still awaiting payment: "and I hold it (her palm) out like a good daughter" (7). How can she expect something that she knows she can never obtain? While directed toward her father, the speaker's tone becomes discourteous. She confronts him calling him "old lecher" (9), "old liar" (10), and "daddy old pauper old prisoner, old dead man" (20). These names don't necessarily sound "forgiving." Why then is the title called "forgiving my father"? It sounds as if the speaker holds a grudge against her father for being poor.

The speaker believes that her father owed something more to her mother. She tells him she wishes "you were rich so I could take it all" (10), and "give the lady what she is due" (11). This proves that she didn't think her father had done enough for her mother. She thought that her mother deserved so much more than what he could afford to give her. She wrote, "you gave her all you had" (14), and angrily adds, "which was nothing" (15). She is obviously unhappy that her father was so poor, although he probably had little control over it.

The speaker shows more disappointment with her father when she exclaims, "you are the pocket that was going to open" (17), then continues "and come up empty any friday" (18). This shows us how unreliable she thought her father was. The daughter compares her parents' marriage to an unfavorable unity: "you were eachother's bad bargain, not mine" (19). Shouldn't marriage be a happy and joyful union, not something that you can't stand?

The conflict is finally resolved when the speaker wonders, "What am I doing here collecting" (21). In the speaker's eyes, her parents "lie side by side in debtor's boxes" (22), not caskets. When she finishes she...
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