Commentary on 'Salvage Operations'

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Like Father, Like Son An Examination of Mariani's “Salvage Operations” The poem “Salvage Operations” comes from Boston College professor Paul Mariani's 1990 book of the same name. The title of the poem refers to a military practice of rescuing equipment from destruction to either rebuild or recycle for use once more. In the context of the poem, the speaker references two instances of salvation: the first being his son's surgery in Taiwan and the second being his father's repair of the ruined old Plymouth. On a deeper level, “Salvage Operations” refers to the speaker's struggle to save his relationship with his son from suffering the damages his relationship with his own father suffered. “Salvage Operations” explores the intimate insecurities of a father who struggles with the challenges of parenthood and (to some extent) separation anxiety, from son and from his own father. When my oldest boy calls home (collect) via satellite, his small voice sounds as if he were just around the corner instead of halfway round the world. The first stanza begins in a nostalgic mood, describing the speaker's son who is calling home from the other side of the world. Mariani uses the paradox “oldest boy” (a paradox due to the discrepancy in age, 'oldest' versus 'boy') as well as the juxtaposition between “around the corner” and “halfway around the world” to illustrate the idea that the speaker still views his son as a young boy, despite the fact that he is an adult living in another country. At the same time, the father notices his son is calling home collect, implying a desire for his son to be independent enough to pay for his own calls. The second stanza indifferently describes an event that should be agitating for the parent – the description of a child's surgery. Mariani uses the symbol “&” instead of the word “and” to create the impression that the father feels that

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