16 pages • 32 minutes readPeter Meinke
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The title of “Advice to My Son” is formal and imperative. The use of the word “to” instead of “for,” implies the speaker is directing his son rather than guiding him, in the manner of an old-fashioned parent. The phrase “advice to” also creates a sense of hierarchical distance between the speaker and the son, creating a giver and a receiver rather than the more intimate, equitable implications of “advice for.” Thus, the title sets up the expectation that the advice the speaker is providing will be imperious, formal, and definite.
However, the opening lines quickly undercut this expectation, contradicting the tone of the title. The phrase “the trick is […]” (1) is casual and conversational, with the persona of the speaker moving into that of a huckster offering life-hacks rather than a serious-minded parent. Further, the short "i" sound is repeated in the first line in “trick” and “live,” enhancing the sense of quick wit and hustle the line carries. The advice that follows is impossible: The speaker suggests the son live life to the fullest since he may die any day, yet also slow down and plan for the future. Thus, the illogical advice seems to question the very notion of offering advice on life.