Those Winter Sundays and My Papa’s Waltz: Poems About Role of Father
Parents are the biggest super heroes everyone knows or have. Regardless of whether its two Mothers or two Fathers… they are the pillar of marble that can withstand anything and everything. “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden and ‘My Papas Waltz” by Theodore Roethke display a father’s affection in little ways. Their methods may not seem like a sign of affection at first, it may be misread as harsh treatment or overworking one self. Though parents sometimes cause discomfort in their children, they may also be showing their love at the same time.
A father’s affection goes a long way. It may not be spoken but shown through subtle action. In “Sundays”, the first stanza takes readers into the speaker’s memories of his Father getting up on Sundays early “with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze” (3-5). The readers may draw a sense of admiration from the speaker, he seems to be in awe when he is awoken by his father and the house is warm and welcoming. In “Waltz”, the speaker is describing a memory to the readers in which he had a quite strange encounter with his drunken father. “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy, but I hung on like death, such waltzing was not easy”. (Stanza 1). Though this poem may be interpreted in a dark abusive manner, it in reality shows the readers a father’s way of showing the boy a good time, even though the father isn’t sober. An odd way to do so, but the speaker shows that it was a happy memory, one that had no fear for his parent. The first poem shows the reader a side of affection that is shown through physical hard labor. “Sundays” inclines that the father regularly wakes up early, possibly for work… but it seems that Sunday is not intended to be his rest day. He uses it to equally wake up early and banish the cold from the house so his child is able to wake up to a warm house and shined shoes: he doesn’t have to but he does. Nevertheless, the second poem shows the reader a side of affection that is purely physical. The father seems to be waltzing with his son. “You beat the time on my head with a palm caked hard by dirt” (13-14). The father doesn’t beat the son as in literal abuse, he is patting the beat out on his head, his hands suggesting that he is a hard worker. May have come back from work just a little too drunk, but in a happy mood.
Furthermore, the speakers seem to have different emotions about what is being displayed. In “Sundays”, the speaker describes the fathers repeated habit in a sense of awe. The readers may interpret that he never picked up on the reality of his father’s love for him, until he got older and understood the reason for all of it. Only out of love would a parent do such hard labor, putting their child first before anything. At the same time, he was teaching the son a valuable lesson. “Sometimes you must put others first before yourself”. The speaker in “Waltz” seems to be confused about his father’s actions. The readers can pick up on the fact that the child must be about waist level since “at every step you missed, my right ear scraped a buckle”. If the reader reads more in depth, they would get the sense that this isn’t a regular occurrence. The Mother, who has a frown because of the destroying of the kitchen, doesn’t seem afraid of the father’s drunken self. The speaker is showing the readers a memory that possibly he might’ve not fully understood but appreciated. This all could’ve happened out of celebration for some sort; a father’s possible promotion, a new politician or maybe just the joy of being home.
The Fathers in these poems have shown the readers that there is neither a wrong or right way to show love for a child. Both fathers seem to be hard working men, but use their free time differently. In “Waltz”, the father, despite being drunk, seems to display a sense of happiness and free will. He doesn’t use his incontinence (drunkenness) to abuse his son, especially when he (the father), misses a step on the beat. He simply is having a good time; the alcohol enhances it. The speaker implies that his father may have had a little too much to drink, “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy”. The child is waist level, so for the whiskey breath to overpower such a small boy must mean the father has drunken a lot; but the mother doesn’t react on it… which readers may interpret that not as a sign of neglect, but as this not being an everyday occurrence. In “Sundays”, the father does not take the Lords Days as the intended “Rest Day”. He instead out of love for his son, rises up and warms the house up. The house seems to be indifferent to the treatment, it creaks and hollers, possibly waking up the child. Out of love for their children, both of the fathers display a sense of physical love. Doesn’t need to be spoken, doesn’t need to be pointed out… it’s just there.
The fathers have shown the speakers and the readers how love comes in different shapes and sizes. It neither has to be set in stone or said; “Waltz” and “Sundays” display signs of affection in little ways. Though parents sometimes cause discomfort in their children, they may also be showing their love at the same time. The speakers have shown the readers different emotions based on what has happened, but they too know that it is them being well thought of.
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