The Hospital Window

The death of a loved one can put unimaginable stress on the
loved ones of the deceased. This stress can make one\'s life chaotic
and unpleasant for long periods of time if the mourners do not
underezd the death. James Dickey, who believes, "poetry is the
center of the creative wheel," wrote the poem, "The Hospital Window".
The relationship between mourners and death becomes apparent in this
"simple 54-line poem . . . about a parent\'s dying as a transformative
experience, and the possibility that love conquers fear." The poem
takes place on a city street adjacent to a large hospital. In "The
Hospital Window", Dickey uses images which represent life and death to
demonstrate that the death of a loved one can make one enter a
surrealistic state, in which everyday occurrences appear to be
heavenly; however, if one can overcome the death by underezding it,
he can then return to a peaceful life.

In the beginning of the poem, the images which distinguish
life and death show that the speaker perceives normal events as
spiritual after leaving his father\'s hospital room. Dickey\'s
persona enters this state when he is on the hospital elevator. As the
elevator brings him down to ground level, he remembers his father
lying in his room above "in a blue light."(3) According to Gertrude
Jobes, the color blue represents heaven and God. Therefore, its
shining down on the speaker\'s father represents God\'s presence with
his father. For any other observer, the light is obviously "shed by
a tinted window,"(4) but the speaker\'s state of mind leads him to
believe that the light shines from heaven. Once outside, the speaker
turns to face the hospital. As he turns, he sees that "[each] window
possesses the sun / As though it burned there on a wick."(13) To
Jobes, the sun represents life. A candle wick burns for only a
certain period of time, and then dies out. Therefore, the speaker
believes that the reflection of the sun in the windows is actually
his father\'s life. When the speaker reaches out to the sun, and
"[waves], like a man catching fire,"(15) he tries to grab his
father\'s life back. At that moment, the glare from the sun reflects
in a certain way, making "all the deep-dyed windowpanes flash."(16)
This flash, in the speaker\'s mind, is God reaching out for the
father\'s soul. Also, the flash mocks the speaker\'s attempts at
grabbing his father\'s life from the grips of death. Furthermore, the
speaker visualizes God\'s presence by "all the white rooms / [turning]
the color of Heaven."(18) To the speaker, the heavenly white color of
the rooms represents purity and innocence, as described in Jobes,
while others see merely white rooms. As the speaker studies the
windows, he sees that all reflect "flames"(21), or the candles of the
living still burning. It is then he realizes that his father\'s window
is different. It reflects "the bright, erased blankness of
nothing."(23) The flickering light visible in all of the other rooms
is not visible in his father\'s room because he is dead. Once the
speaker realizes his father is dead, he can start to overcome the
death.

In the middle of the poem, images representing life and death
show how the speaker overcomes his father\'s death. After experiencing
the madness of death, the speaker transitions from not believing in
the death to realizing that his father is leaving him. First, the
speaker realizes that his father\'s body remains in his room "[in] the
shape of his death still living"(25). Death still living represents
the father\'s dead body, with the soul still alive within. This
thought causes a madness within the speaker because he realizes that
his father\'s soul, oreverything he was, may remain within the corpse
forever. Eventually, his father\'s soul "lifts [its] arms out of
stillness at last"(31), causing the speaker to realize that his
father\'s soul is leaving the body. The speaker "[turns] as blue as a
soul / As the moment when I was born"(33-34) from the realization that
his father will live on with him forever. This realization holds true
because his father gave him life, so therefore his father will live on
in his life. Additionally, the speaker realizes that