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Literary Commentary on a Work by John Tobias

            The poet, John Tobias, explores the tension between a highly blissful and idealized childhood and the harsh realities of a far more corrupt present in the poem 'Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickles Received From a Friend Called Felicity.' Alongside the character's loss of innocence, other supporting themes are present, such as drug abuse, the passage of time, and violence. Through immensely detailed description in imagery of the author's childhood memories and present day, we witness the personal growth and nostalgic recollection of memories of a character.
             Tobias builds the foundations of the reader's understanding within the strikingly interesting and equally as strange title given to the poem. What seems to make the poem so alluring is that the title is ridiculously long and that it humorously introduces the poem as a "reflection on a gift of watermelon pickle." The reader is instantly thrown off at first read of this title and is therefore inclined to continue reading in order to make sense of the title. "During that summer" is a popular opening line to the stanzas in the poem, which is repeated in order to create a reminiscent tone. The use of the subordinating conjunction "that" in this context lets the reader make a distinction between "that summer" from every other summer. The first two lines also establish heavenly dreamlike scenery, like that in the eyes of a child who believes that "unicorns are[were] still possible." The unicorn appears throughout the poem symbolically as a metaphor for childhood. It is described in the last line of the last stanza to become "possible again" after a piece of watermelon pickle is taken from the "savored lingeringly". The association between these two is the nostalgic feeling that is portrayed through gustatory imagery and the return of the author's childhood memories.

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