The poems “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden and “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke contain a multitude of different symbols, diction, and figurative language that contribute to the themes of the poems. Although the themes are not identical in the two poems, they contain a basic gist that unites the theme of love and admiration between child and father. The fathers in both poems are extremely similar, described with blue collar, industrial characteristics and a unique way of displaying affection. The theme of love in Hayden’s, “Those Winter Sundays” is similar to the theme of admiration in Roethke’s, “My Papa’s Waltz” in the sense of how a father and child relationship connects through love.
In “My Papa’s Waltz,” the speaker of the story is a little child of unknown gender that waltzes or as is revealed later on in the story, “romps” with his or her father in their kitchen. The mother watches on in disapproval as the child and the intoxicated father clumsily knock kitchen pans from shelves as the father’s belt buckle scrapes the young child’s ear with every misstep he takes. Soon, the battered and dirt-caked hands of the father direct the child to bed where the child clings to the father, not wanting to let go.
Theodore Roethke uses a multitude of symbols and word choice to convey the main themes associated in the poem. Some of the diction used in the text includes the description of the father’s hands. On line 10, the child refers to the knuckle on one of the father’s hands as “battered.” Two lines later, the child references the father’s hand as “a palm caked hard by dirt” (Roethke 791). These references to the father’s hands give the tone of wear and tear or even abuse. A constant hint of violence is m...
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...put to bed, the child still does not want to let go because the child admires and does not want to lose the father even when things are difficult like waltz. In “Those Winter Sundays,” the now-grownup child looks back and seems to regret the misconception of what he or she believed love was at the time. The speaker took the father for granted, never thanked him, and spoke indifferently to him but now understands the true meaning of love and that it was being displayed the child’s whole life through the actions of the father. The repetition and overall conclusion “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” in lines 13 and 14 gives a sense of the child in present time as a mature adult reconsidering and wishing that he or she had the opportunity to thank the father for the love he showed through his actions and obligation to love his child.
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