Comparison Of My Papa

’s Waltz And Those Winter Sundays Essay, Research Paper

My Papa s Waltz and Those Winter Sundays

My Papa s Waltz, by Theodore Roethke, and Those Winter

Sundays, by Robert Hayden, are two somewhat similar poems about

respected fathers. To most people a father is not just the man who fertilizes

their mother s egg, but a man that spends time with and takes care of them.

While doing this, he gains their love and respect. In these two poems

Roethke and Hayden take an admiring look back at the actions of their

fathers, although; they both imply that their parents were not perfect.

In My Papa s Waltz, Theodore Roethke describes an episode in his

childhood. In this, what seems to be regular, occurrence his drunken father

comes home for the night reeking of alcohol and begins dancing with him.

Roethke describes his father s hands as being battered on one knuckle and

extremely soiled. They romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf

(5-6). This made his mother so upset that she could do nothing but frown.

Finally, his father waltzed him on to bed.

In Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden, the poet also

relinquishes on a regular occurrence in his childhood. On Sunday mornings,

just as any other morning, his father rises early and puts on his clothes in the

cold darkness. He then goes out in the cold and splits fire wood with which

he uses to start a fire in the house. After the entire house is warm he calls the

rest of his family out of bed. He does not get any thanks for doing this, but

that does not seem to matter.

In both poems the poets seem to look back on their childhoods with

much love and respect for their fathers. In My Papa s Waltz the title

suggests a sense of love and honor. Usually when a child calls his father

Papa they have a very close relationship in which the child respects and

admires his father. Also, the use of the word Waltz suggests a Happy dance

of high class people. This is ironic because Roethke s father is drunken and

dirty when this dance takes place, but when one thinks of the waltz they think

of a dance between two high-classed people in an extravagant ballroom.

Another example of the child s love and respect for his father is illustrated in

the things he overlooks just to be able to carryout the dance. Although The

whiskey your [his father s] breath could make a small boy dizzy (1-2), the

child hung on like death (3). The speaker also overlooks the pain of his ear

scraping against a belt buckle at every missed step of his drunken father just

to continue his waltz . Roethke also indirectly implies his respect for his

father by stating that his hand is caked hard with dirt (14). This is

representative of his father having had a hard day at work.

Robert Hayden uses a different approach to imply his love and respect

for his father. He uses an example of a regular occasion that he did not pay

much attention to when he was a child but now that he is an adult he looks

back on it with the utmost respect. Just as any other day his father gets up

bright and early on Sunday mornings. He puts on his clothes in the cold

darkness and goes outside to split firewood. Although he does not pay this

much attention in his childhood, Hayden really respects it as an adult. His

fathers actions are a result of his simple love for his children. Although his

approach is different, Hayden uses one of the same references to his father as

Roethke: his hand. Hayden refers to the condition of his father s hands with

this statement: With cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday

weather (3-4). This suggests that his father is a very hard worker.

Although both poems represent the poet s love and respect for their

fathers, there is one implement in each poem that suggests the fathers and

family life was not perfect. The imperfection of the father in My Papa s

Waltz is clearly stated. He has a drinking problem. In relation to this the

mother s continuous frowning, the pans falling from the shelf may not have

been the complete cause. She could have been frowning because she is tired

of her husband coming home drunk every night. This may be a chronic

problem in their relation ship. In Those Winter Sundays there is no

clean-cut imperfection but one is implied when the speaker refereed to the

chronic angers of that house (9). These angers are not specifically drawn out

but they could be of many things like the absence of a mother or the

abusiveness of the father, but whatever it may be, there is some imperfection.

My Papa s Waltz and Those Winter Sundays are two poems that

express the poets love and respect for their parents. This love and respect may

not have been as big of an issue to them when they were children but now

they understand why their fathers did the things they did and will use those

experiences to help them in their adult life.


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