Playing Dead by Andrew Hidgins
English and Literature
Submitted By aktran18
“Playing Dead” by Andrew Hidgins
Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas in 1951. He was born into a military family and spent his early childhood moving from base to base. After graduating from Huntingdon College with a Bachelor Degree in English and History, Hudgins taught for one year in Montgomery public school systems. To fulfill his desire for writing, he attended the University of Alabama, where he earned his Master’s Degree in English. Hudgins was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his first book of poems, Saints and Strangers. “Playing Dead” is a twenty-eight line poem in a ballad form. In this poem, the speaker is describing his or her experience as a child, playing a game with their father. “Playing Dead” started out as having a sense of humor with the father playing dead with his children. At the end of the poem, when the father did not wake up, the speaker, for a split moment, come to realize a strong sense of loss. “Playing Dead” begins with a fun game between the father and his children. In the poem, Hudgins writes, “He took his thick glasses off / and stretched out on the bed” (3-4). This suggests that the father is probably tired and wants to take a nap. The poem continues on by describing the features of how the father is sleeping: “wouldn’t twitch,” “didn’t snore,” and “didn’t seem to breathe” (5-7). The writer ends the second stanza of the poem with the question, “Are you okay?” This shows that the speaker is having a sense of worry about the game they are playing. In the second part of the poem, the speaker shares his or her thoughts about the possibilities that the father might be dead. The speaker describes how the father was lying so still and did not show any movement when the children were tickling his stinky feet. The speaker also compares the way the father was lying to last year’s parakeet. This makes us question, what happen to last year’s parakeet? Did the parakeet die? It makes us wonder if the speaker is thinking about death at this time. Further down the poem, the speaker describes how the father might be dead and not “playing possum,” as the writer puts it. The phrase “playing dead” means to feign sleep or death. These two words fit the meaning of this paragraph because they give the reader an intense feeling of this game and how the children are frightened because their father would not wake up. The poem ends by giving a strong message to the children. The speaker at this point thinks his or her father was dead. To make sure that the father is actually dead, the speaker hits his or her father in his most prized possession. The words “rose” and “drools” shows that the father was alive and that the sense of happiness came back to the children. The father wakes up, waving his hands everywhere: “His right hand lashed both right and left. / His left hand clutched his scrotum” (25-26). The word “scrotum” is referring to his prized possession, his testicles. For any male, this would really hurt, even in a very deep sleep. The speaker’s father is very mad at the end of the poem, but it does not matter to the children because they then know for a fact that their father is alive. The title, “Playing Dead,” fits the meaning of this poem. It shows us a game, which every dad plays with his children for fun, which can turn into a fleeting experience of losing a father. This is not a fun or pleasant feeling. But at the end, the speaker was thrilled to get his or her father back.