Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-Second Year

October. Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father’s embarrassed young man’s face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.

But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can’t hold my liquor either,
and don’t even know the places to fish?

Analysis, meaning and summary of Raymond Carver's poem Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-Second Year


  1. Landon says:

    i think it is just terrible when people over analyze. the author may or may not have switched from concrete to abstract on purpose.
    why do people feel the need to over analyze everything?
    you can’t just accept the beauty (in life) as it is?

  2. Jun says:

    Poet uses concrete words through out first and second stanzas, however uses the abstract word “love” at the end to emphasize the speaker’s feeling towards his father.

    • Mark Pawlowski says:

      I happened upon this thread at such an interesting time: my father died on Memorial Day. Despite the fact that he abandoned my mother, my three siblings, and me, I do/did love him. I have come to accept that he was a flawed person who would have liked to have been more. I too cannot thank him for passing on the genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, but I can thank him for teaching me how not to be a father.

  3. kelly says:

    I found this to be a very moving poem that captures the conflicting emotions that Raymond had, like most humans do, towards his father. He sees his own worse qualities reflected in this picture of his father yet his anger at this is softened by his father’s obvious youth and vulnerability. He expresses his disappointment in, yet compassion and deep love for his parent. Like most of us he realises that our parents were just human, fumbling through like everyone else.

  4. Chris says:

    The poem shows more of a representation of the child’s yearning for someone to look up to and how to live his life. So as he progresses through the life the only thing he can learn from his father is cowardice, alcoholism, and the lack of ability to make something of himself. He really despised his Father, even thought the views of society were to respect him.

  5. Devon says:

    I enjoy the way this poem speaks about the generation gap and the importance of the understanding of our parents. I find that many, if not all, of mankind try to understand what and who it is that raised us, and few in fact succeed.

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