Symbolsim of Fathes as a Common Image in Poetry
The works "My Papa's Waltz" and "Those Winter Sundays" are poems that explain a child's love for his fathers, even if, like in "My Papa's Waltz," the father brings problems into the household. Of the things the fathers do, some of them aren't always seen as the right thing to do. Theodore Roethke, the author of " My Papa's Waltz," uses symbolism and imagery to help develop the meaning of his poem, as does Robert Hayden, the author of "These Winter Sunday." These poems, written from different points of views, both show love for a father through the use of symbolism and imagery.
Symbols associate two things, but their meanings are both literal and figurative. For example a quote from Hayden's poem, "who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes (lines 12,13)." The speaker doesn't mean that the father had literally driven out the cold, but that instead had run the cold air out by warming the house with a fire. The poem states that the father had polished the child's "good shoes (line 13)." Literally meaning the father works all week, and still comes home to clean, cook and even rise early on his days off to try to make life better for his child. Yet the child still spoke indifferently to him, making the father feel lowly and humble.
Symbolism also plays a role in Roethke's poem. The main symbol in his poem would have to be the father's waltzing. The waltz is not known for being a difficult dance, just a dance in which someone must lead. The child states, "Such waltzing was not easy (line 4)." This may represent the way in which the father was leading the child, very demanding, maybe even pulling on the child at times, to hurry him up. The last line of the poem states "then waltzed me off to bed (line 15)" which shows that as poorly as the waltz started off, it ended in a peaceful and comfortable place. These examples help show that no symbols have absolute meanings, and by their nature, we cannot read them at face value. The two poets also use imagery in their poems to help illustrate the love and dignity for the boy's fathers.
Imagery is a form of language that embodies an appeal to a physical sense, usually sight, although the words may invoke sound, smell, and taste and touch as well. Hayden uses imagery to help explain what the father does to show his love. One line in "Those Winter Sundays," states, "With cracked hands that ached/ from labor in the weekday weather made/ banked fires blaze (line 3-5)." Hear the speaker is showing that the father, even though he has worked all week in the extremely cold winter conditions, wakes early to start a fire and warm the house for the family. This image is given to help us, the reader, better understand the father's rough position. He wakes his child when the house is warm; the child speaks "indifferently" to his father even though his father had warmed the house. The father rises early on those "blueblack cold (line 2)" Sunday mornings, to bring the house to life. We really get a clear picture of how the father is wonderful for waking early to "bank" the fire and drive out the "chronic angers (line 10)" and the "clod-splintering breaking (line 6)."
One similarity between these two poems is that both authors use imagery, but Roethke uses imagery to show a father's control over his child, such as in the line, "The hand that held my wrist (line 9)." This line could suggest many things, such as the harsh physical control and even manipulation over the little boy. Most people would hold the child's hand, a much calmer and less harsh approach to having control. We are also told that the hand that holds the child's wrist "was battered on one knuckle (line 10)." This could lead us to believe that the father leads a dangerous and rough life style. Another frightening characteristic of the father is the smell of whiskey on his breath, so strong it could make a small boy dizzy. A conclusion that could be made from this is that the father is a drunk who gets in fights and beats objects or people. The speaker also says that the father "beat time (line13)" on his head instead of "kept time," connoting a method, harsh in its manner for keeping time to the waltz. The father obviously doesn't seem to mind harming the child or else he would stop the drinking, so that he could walk without stumbling. Both of these poems speak about fathers and their sons, but Hayden's poem describes a well-balanced, hard working father.
The speaker in Hayden's poem uses imagery and symbolism to increase the validity of the poem. The father is shown as a selfless man who warms the house and cleans to help create an inciting home for his family. But the true side of the child comes out when he chooses to act both ungrateful and indifferent towards the father. The speaker seems to regret not thanking his dad what he has done. The speaker may feel bad that he acted so unkindly towards his father after reviewing all that his father has done to make ends meet. In Roethke's the father is explained in such a way that we get a picture of a harmful father.
In "My Papa's Waltz" we may conclude that the father is abusive and very stern. When we look at the fact that the child's father drinks, and miss's steps and the mother frowns on the father, we can draw a picture suggesting poor kept, unmannered man. We realize that the child still loves his father, maybe because he is just to young to understand the dirty ways of his father.
The two poems expressed in this writing, although not the same in context share the use of imagery and symbolism to help express their stories and ideas. We see how images illustrate concepts, things and/or processes appealing to the senses. We also see how using symbolism can change the meaning of a word and make us understand things in a whole new light. These authors use both symbolism and imagery to help open our eyes and help us better understand what about our fathers that we either take for granted or wish we could change.
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