Goodbye to the old life,
to the sadness of rooms
where my family slept as I sat

late at night on my
island of light among papers.
Goodbye to the papers

and to the school for the rich
where I drove them, dressed up
in a tie to declare who I was.

Goodbye to all the ties
and to the life I lost
by declaring, and a fond goodbye

to the two junk cars that lurched
and banged through the campus
making it sure I would never fit in.

Goodbye to the finest campus
money could buy, and one
final goodbye to the paycheck

that was always gone
before I got it home.
Farewell to the home

and a heartfelt goodbye
to all the tenants who rented
the upstairs apartment,

particularly Mrs. Doucette,
whose washer overflowed
down the walls of our bathroom

every other week, and Mr. Green,
determined in spite of the evidence
to learn the electric guitar.

And to you there, the young man
on the roof turning the antenna
and trying not to look down

on how far love has taken you,
and to the faithful wife
in the downstairs window

shouting, “That’s as good
as we’re going to get it,”
and to the four hopeful children

staying with the whole program
despite the rolling picture
and the snow – goodbye,

wealth and joy to us all
in the new life, goodbye!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Wesley McNair's poem Goodbye To The Old Life

1 Comment

  1. Madelyn Barry says:

    A look into suicide is beyond difficult to interpret and this poem gives the reader a front row. Wesley McNair is able to share an engrossing story about a middle-aged father taking his own life due to a mix of events. In the poem Goodbye to the Old Life, Wesley McNair uses the literary elements of repetition and sarcasim to effectively convey his process of committing suicide.

    There is repetition of “Goodbye” throughout the poem, which emphasizes the idea of leaving and not returning. The speaker, a middle-aged father, is saying goodbye to certain things in his life. “Goodbye to the old life…” and “Farewell to the home and a heartfelt goodbye…” are just a couple of examples of the speaker’s decision to leave, while stressing that it is a difficult depart. His repetition for the word ‘goodbye’ signifies his frustrations and difficulties in his commitment and shows how many things and people he needs to say “so long” to.

    Along with repetition, the poem has a sarcastic tone as the author’s attitude is nearly satirical. The speaker is saying goodbye to his children’s private school and a campus where he wasn’t welcomed. His tone is loving with diction like, “fond”, “finest campus” and “heartfelt goodbye”, although he is upset with these things and withdrawing from them. It is evident that the speaker is frustrated beyond repair with tenants like Mrs. Doucette and Mr. Green who have both caused him damage. His last line and exclamation: “goodbye, wealth and joy to us all in the new life, goodbye!” expresses a ‘in your face’ type of tone. The speaker justifies his effort in trying to better his and his family’s life and failingand now, quitting.

    It is clear that Goodbe to the Old Life is a poem about ending a life on purpose and with reasons. Wesley McNair uses the poetic tool of repetition to highlight all of the ‘goodbyes’ necessary to give. Additionally a sarcastic tone is used to effectively keep it light and not tragic.

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