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Example #1: Though the narratives in Theordore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” and Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” offer contrasting paternal images, their attitudes towards their father are similar. Each presents a loving image of their fathers, but in a different way. Roethke relies on a warm tone to convey his message, while Hayden relies on comforting imagery. The contrast in Roethke’s and Hayden’s use of tone and imagery highlight a loving attitude while still remaining true to the respective fathers. The direct contrast in subject matter is responsible for the warm and cold imagery specific to “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Those Winter Sundays.” “Those Winter Sundays” presents a self-sacrificing father with “cracked hands that ached” striving to make his family comfortable. Always without thanks, the father in Hayden’s poem rises to fill his duties and support his family, on “Sundays too.” This image of a devoted father evokes a warm, comforting feeling. In Hayden’s poem the father both literally and figuratively rids the house of cold. Roethke plays with imagery to give the reader a contrasting feeling while still communicating the same positive attitude. “My Papa’s Waltz” presents a boisterous scene complete with a mother who could not get herself to “unfrown.” Though Roethke remarks that “such waltzing was not easy,” he finds himself “clinging” to the moment as “pans slide from the kitchen shelf.” It is a tumultuous scene, but Roethke still manages to highlight his father’s underlying good intentions- to be merry and see his family happy. The poets takes on imagery differ, but the message is the same. Example #2 These two poems, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “Those Winter Days” by Robery Hayden, both set in the past, are evocations of the narrators’ respective fathers. Although the two fathers could not be more different from each other, the two relationships are both broken and dysfunctional. In “My Papa’s Waltz”, the narrator cares deeply for his father, however, the truth is that his “Papa” is a drunk who abuses his family and is unable to return his son’s love. In contrast, “Those Winter Sundays” depicts a father who loves his son and toils for his family’s comfort. His son, however, failed to acknowledge this at the time, and was unable to reciprocate his father’s affection. Although the narrators’ attitudes are contrasting, the author uses similar techniques of imagery, diction, and tone to illustrate them. Both writers use imagery extensively throughout their poems. In “My Papa’s Waltz”, Theodore Roethke evokes images such as the father’s hardened, “palm caked” hand, a room in disarray, battered knuckles and bruises. These images all not only reveal the abusive nature of the father but reflect the narrator’s emotions. The broken hands are like the broken spirit and dejected feelings that filled the narrator during his father’s drunken tirades. Similarly, the “blueback cold” that permeates Hayden’s poem, “Those Winter Sundays” reflects the narrator’s indifference and cold demeanor. As such, both authors use imagery as a means to not only evoke images but also to convey the emotions of the narrators. Example #3: While famous psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud tend to focus on maternity in his psychological analyses, a great deal of time has been devoted to analyzing paternal influences as well. The poems “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden depict opposite relationships between father and son. Roethke discusses a son who loves his father despite all of the bad things he has done, while Hayden discusses a son who fails to appreciate his father despite all of the good he has done. The authors show these relationships through their use of diction, tone, and sentence structure. Simple, basic diction tends to convey a lack of emotion or interest. If one says something is, “good,” there is not much emotional conveyed and one gets the impression that the speaker does not care very much. In Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” simple, basic diction conveys the lack of appreciation of the protagonist’s father. He gets out of bed, “slowly,” and speaks, “indifferently.” He describes his shoes as, “good.” These basic words, as discussed above, express the author’s idea that the boy had little emotion towards what his father was doing for him. On the contrary, Roethke uses more complex words to communicate his protagonist’s extreme emotional towards his father. Words such as “waltz,” “romp,” “scrape,” and, “clinging” are vivid and thus, convey the idea that there is strong emotion present. This supports the poem’s primary idea; the boy loves his father very much. Example #4 Children often lack the understanding that comes with age. As a result, their attitudes towards key individuals in their lives can be shallow in meaning and maturity. When author’s write from the perspective of a child they reflect this lack of depth in their tone and diction, while allowing the reader to interpret the true meaning behind a child’s observations. This leads to a greater understand the child’s attitude towards others. In “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Those Winter Sundays” a child’s point of view shows a child’s attitude toward his father while revealing a greater truth behind their relationship. In the poems there is an ironic difference between the attitudes held by the two children towards their father. In the first, “My Papa’s Waltz” the child views his drunken father’s drunken behavior as a dance. From the child’s perspective what his father is doing is not wrong or abusive. Furthermore, the poem’s rhyme gives it a lyrical and fun tone. These examples show that the child’s attitude towards his fathers actions are a result of the child’s ignorance. While the “waltz” knocks pots off the kitchen shelves and leaves the mother with a frown on her face, the child sees the drunken behavior as an exciting dance. This same childish ignorance also results in an inappropriate attitude in the poem “Those Winter Sundays”. While the author’s descriptions of the father’s harsh labor in the “blueback cold” stirs sympathy in the minds of mature readers. However, the immature speaker in the poem acts “indifferently” towards his father even though the father does the work for the sake of the child. The child is ignorant to how his father’s love for him motivates all the harsh labor and thus shows an unappreciative attitude. Again, attitude—due to an immature lack of understanding—is revealed by the child’s perspective.
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