16 pages 32 minutes read

Peter Meinke

Advice to My Son

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1991

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Symbols & Motifs

Shattered Windshield and Bursting Shell

The shattered windshield in Line 7 likely refers to a car’s damaged glass visor during a fatal road accident. The bursting shell likely refers to an exploding bullet or a grenade in a war-like scenario. Though these are concrete, literal images referring to real-life apocalyptic scenarios, they also carry great symbolic weight. Both images symbolize a sudden, untimely death, as happens to so many young people. However, at a deeper level, they symbolize nihilistic humanmade violence and tragedy. Significantly, unlike the natural vegetable and fruit images in the second stanza, the windshield and shell are synthetic, manufactured devices. Thus, the poem ties an unnatural, early death with the symbols of manmade violence, industry, and war.

Further, the shattered windshield and bursting shell also symbolize the unpredictability of life. Their sudden introduction in the poem comes as a breach symbolic of the nature of happenstance and disaster. The broken windshield cannot be mended and the bursting shell cannot be rebuilt nor reintroduced in the chamber it left. Life is irreversible and therefore must be thoughtfully lived.

Flowers and Vegetables

In the second stanza, the speaker urges the son to plant both “the peony and the rose” (Line 11) as well as “squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes” (Line 12).