Portrayals of Fathers Through Tones in Poetry

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In “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “Daddy” by Sylva Plath both poets describe their paternal figures. Roethke tone is melancholy and bittersweet, while as Plath’s portrayal of her father is resentful and hostile. “My Papa’s Waltz” tells the story of a young boy, perhaps from the memory of Roethke who has been hurt physically by his father “But [he still] hung on like death” (3). “Daddy” depicts the relationship Plath had with her father who seemed to have hurt her emotionally and she will not stand for it anymore. Both poets’ tones contribute to their respective depictions of their fathers. The young boy in “My Papa’s Waltz” immediately introduces his father as a drunk, so drunk that it “Could make a small boy dizzy” (2). He goes on to describe the “waltz” between him and his father as not being easy and ironically describes their waltz as a “romp,” which causes pans to fall from the kitchen shelf. He then describes his mother’s disapproval of their “romping” stated in lines 7-8 of the poem, “My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself.” These depictions can all be interpreted as this being a poem about Roethke dancing around with his drunken father as a young boy or as Roethke thinking back to a childhood memory of his abusive father. But as the poem progresses words such as: death, battered, and beat are used to describe the events taking place between the young boy and his father which make the poets’ melancholy tone even more apparent. It also becomes more evident that this waltz possibly isn’t a dance between a father and son but it is an abusive relationship shared between the two. The poems’ tone changes when the young boy describes how he clings onto his father. This is seen twice in the poem, first in line 3, where he hung onto his father and second in lines 15-16 when he stayed clinging to his father’s shirt as his father “…waltzed [him]

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