Theodore Roethke’s My Papa’s Waltz and Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays

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Abuse is a difficult and sensitive subject that can have long lasting effects. These traumatic emotional effects are often intensified if the abuse happens at a young age because children do not understand why the abuse is happening or how to deal with it. There are many abuse programs set up to counter the severe effects which abuse can have. Even more, poets and writers all over the world contribute works that express the saddening events and force the public to realize it is much more real than the informative articles we read about. One such poem is Theodore Roethke’s My Papa’s Waltz which looks carefully through the eyes of a young boy into the household of an abusive father. Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays is a similar poem from …show more content…
As the poem progresses, the boy’s tone becomes more playful which reinforces the serious statement about how much he cares for his father. The ‘waltz’ becomes less serious when he says, “We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf” (Roethke, 5). Using a word like romped is a deliberate attempt to make a serious event lighthearted and fun. The only reason a child would make this ‘waltz’ playful is because he wants to protect his father, whom he loves. As the last stanza explains, “You beat time on my head…Then waltzed me off to bed Still clinging to your shirt.” (Roethke, 13-16) Again, the abuse is compared to a waltz which makes it seem lighthearted. The boy is taking a serious affair and making it into a fun event. He uses this good-natured tone because he loves his father and wants to justify this serious affair.

Similarly, Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays starts with a young adult reflecting back on his childhood and remembering how hard his father worked. He thinks back and his tone is of admiration and respect. This is apparent when the young man reflects, “Sundays too my father got up early…No one ever thanked him.” (Hayden, 1-5) The young man is realizing how hard his father worked and how little recognition he got. This makes a certain degree of guilt come over the young man. He remembers “fearing the chronic angers of that house” (Hayden, 9) and dislikes his father because of it by “speaking indifferently to him” (Hayden, 10). Then the
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