The issue of family relationship is a valuable standard for the understanding of literary works, mainly those which feature the connection between a boy and his father. Family relationship is significant in portraying how a child uses fantasy to avoid his attitudes toward his parents. It suggest father and son relationship by means of poetry in disguised and discerning hints can be a successful means to reflect the hidden and emotionally based childhood experiences. In several respects, the poems “My Papa’s Waltz”, by Theodor Roethke and “Those Winter Sundays”, by Robert Hayden fall in this category. The connection between the child and his father in these poems offers a means of discovering and interpreting the setting, tone and theme among other elements aspects of poetry. “In My Papa’s Waltz,” a drunken father turns home at night foul of whisky and starts to dance with the narrator, in what is believed to be a regular episode (Fong79). The speaker in “Those Winter Sundays” also remembers a regular event during his childhood, when his father rises early on Sunday mornings (Rampersad and Herbold 261). Most readers see the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Those Winter Sundays”, as opposites; however they are alike in several significant ways.
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“My Papa’s Waltz” describes a father and child together enjoying time in a waltz. The poem’s theme swings around memories of a child concerning his father. It is set in a family home and is narrated by a young boy. The poem has four stanzas, perhaps to reflect the structure of their waltz (McKenna1). It is likely that the father has just gotten home after a long day’s work, and dances with the child before going to bed. “Those Winter Sundays” cautiously remembers the father’s sacrifices on a Sunday morning, besides his constant labor on weekdays. Emotions and memories form the theme of this poem. The poem is narrated from a son’s perspective, and set in a cold dwelling during winter. The first point is that the father gets dressed early when the house is unheated and cold. He calls the son to wake up after the fire has been lit and the house is warm. He also polishes the child’s shoes (Gallagher 1). However, the relationship is described by elements like “chronic angers”, which may imply that possibly the routine and maybe poverty had strained family affiliations.
The cold in the house described by Hayden is a recurring hardship that the father must endure: “Sundays too my father got up earlyâ€¦in the blue black cold,” (1-2). In the whole poem, the author employs imagery and other figurative language forms, consistent setting along with flashback techniques to bring out a picture of father-son relationship for the reader (Rampersad and Herbold 261). The actions of the father are channeled in bettering the life of his family. However, “No one ever thanked him” (5). Even though the father shows his efforts by sacrificing personal comfort for the child’s sake, the boy does not understand the stern and simple love expressed by the father. In addition, maternal influence is not emphasized in both poems. The mother is does mentioned in “My Papa’s Waltz” with “My mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself” (7-8). However, similar to “Those Winter Sundays” the maternal parent does not feature in any significant way (Fong81). The boys in both cases may have anticipated more than was given to them. Especially, the concept of more love; yet they failed to understand that their fathers simply demonstrated this affection in a different manner.
Nevertheless, a holy bond exists in the father-son relationship. This connection is the bottom line of both poems. The speakers in the two poems are actually adults who are analyzing their past and articulating their reactions to their fathers. Hence both narrations express nostalgia. Likewise, the narrators are expressing their appreciation and love to their father, which had not been shown in the past. For instance, Roethke writes about a father who would dance daily with the boy. During the dance, the boy would occasionally miss a step and his ear would painfully scrap his father’s belt (McKenna 1). Though sometimes painful, it was a memorable thing for the son. The poem is authored in a happy tone and light hearted throwback to the narrator’s boyhood days. “Those Winter Sundays” illustrates a more sad and dark tone. The speaker remembers how the father woke up and started to work “Sundays too my father got up earlyâ€¦/ No one ever thanked him” (1-5). Yet, the message remains related, that the father worked hard to keep the house warm and support his family (Gallagher1). Therefore, even though this poem is much sadder, it still encompasses a somewhat loving feeling. Both narrators now realize the significance of their father’s efforts as envision in the choice of words.
So as to present the father-son relationship, the writers utilize words with the same connotation. The reader is able to find out that the families spoken of in both poems are not wealthy. Roethke, in describing the father writes “With a palm caked hard by dirt,” (14). Likewise, Hayden in illustrating the impact of the work on the father uses words like “with cracked hands that ached,” (3). Fathers in both cases become soiled due to their occupations, which can be assumed not to be that great. Furthermore, the choices of words in both narrations convey pain to the audience. Words such as battered,” “scraped,” “clinging” “cold splintering, breaking,” and “chronic angers” could comprise a single poem (Fong 82: Rampersad and Herbold 261). But they are adjectives utilized by both writers in their separate poems. Each word passes over some level of painful image in the mind of readers. The order of words the two poems play an important role too. Rather than arrange phrases in a normal and accepted way, the authors change the word order to establish more emphasis and or rhythm in the relationship.
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Whereas the father-son relationship somewhat differs in the two poems, both narrators think back to a defining moment during their boyhood. Narrated years after the event, the speaker in “Those Winter Sundays” tends to appreciate these moments even more. The phrase “What did I know” (14) is repeated to highlight the fact that the child did not understand the true meaning of being a father (Gallagher1). Referring to love’s offices as “lonely” and “austere” is additional evidence that the father’s efforts went unappreciated by his family. Still, some mentions throughout “My Papa’s Waltz” such as “the whiskey on your breath” (1), and “the hand â€¦ /was batteredâ€¦” (9-10) are used. They could probably mean that the father was drunk or had anger problems, but many readers discover the poem to be cheerful (McKenna1). It is almost likely that the speaker tells the story to express and memorize his moment of fun with the father.
In conclusion, the two poems represents on family relationships, particularly the link between a young boy and the father. Even though the details and tone make each poem unique, the main idea is similar. “My Papa’s Waltz” portrays how the speaker looks back at certain childhood episodes when he joyfully played with his father. In “Those Winter Sundays”, the narrator also mirrors how the father sacrificed for his family, but was never appreciated fully. Very similar experiences are conveyed due to the ability of the father to physically communicate to his son devoid of words. Roethke’s speaker realizes that although his father was never a polished dancer, he took time to waltz with him, then a young boy. Father and son had a moment of fun, even though it hurt a little. Hayden’s narrator recalls the actions of his father each morning, lighting fire and polishing shoes. The speaker regrets greatly that he did not appreciate his father’s efforts. While the two poems are composed and read differently, the fundamental message transmitted is a valid immediate explanation of father-son relationship.
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