Open any number of parenting books that line the shelves of a bookstore and within the pages of those books a reader will find endless portrayals of a father’s role in a child’s life. Some portray an openly affectionate father that is fully involved in every aspect of a child’s life. Others portray a more detached father that focuses on one specific role within that child’s life. Traditionally, that one specific role is that of provider. Often, the manner in which a father communicates and shows his love for a child is based upon the role in which he plays. Accordingly, the poems “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden both portray the relationship between a father and son and the manner in which they communicate and show love. However, while love is visible within both poems, the relationships within each poem cannot be more different and it is through the authors’ use of imagery that such relationship is revealed.
In “My Papa’s Waltz,” Roethke uses imagery to portray the relationship between the father and his son. As Roethke describes the dance shared between a father and his son, the narrator creates a scene full of affectionate memories. The narrator provides a child-like glimpse back into a time shared between a father and his son as they danced across the kitchen floor. Throughout the poem, images of a hard-working father are created as Roethke writes of the roughness of the father’s hand that are “battered on one knuckle” (10) and “a palm caked hard by dirt” (14). As the father and son “romped” (5) in the middle of the kitchen despite the mother’s “countenance” (7), the vision of the father’s affectionate, carefree and fun relationship with his son is a cherished memory to the ...
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...omes to admire and respect his father as he states, “What did I know of love’s lonely and austere offices” (13-14).
While the relationship between a father and his son may be openly affectionate or quietly reserved, the love found within a father’s battered knuckles or cracked hands remains the same. Both “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Those Winter Sundays” reveal fathers that show their love through their respective actions…either openly through his playful dancing with his son or quietly through his providing for the well-being of his family. Both of these poems cause the reader to reflect upon the love between each father and son. In doing so, the readers are able to relate to the poems and recognize the love found within the battered knuckles and cracked hands of their own fathers.
Roethke, Theodore "My Papa's Waltz
Hayden, Robert "Those Winter Sundays"
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