15 Feb. 2012
Poetry is like a literature puzzle that needs to be solved. The answers (interpretations) to the puzzle however, are not the same for everyone. I had a little trouble finding my interpretations of “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, and “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, but at the end of my readings and analysis I felt as if I understood the authors and their emotions. Trying to compare and contrast them was a new and challenging experience for me with poetry but it ended up being fun and enlightening. When it comes to what Roethke would think of Plath’s poem, I feel as if Roethke would feel bad for Plath’s persona and tone in her poem and the sadness that was conveyed by the narrator. The feelings toward the father in Plath’s poem are totally opposite to Roethke’s.
It’s not hard to connect the “father” roles indicated in both poems, but finding the differences can be tricky. For example, the themes of both poems were totally different. After reading Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” the first time, I was pretty sure it was a gloomy and depressing poem about an abusive father that would beat his son when he was drunk. That interpretation changed however after I read it a few more times and understood that I had to go past the words and try to connect it all and make sense of it for myself. The poem actually is a cheerful and upbeat poem dealing with a drunken father dancing happily with his son. On the other hand, “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, is a dark and depressing poem dealing with a speaker (woman) that creates a figurative image of her father, using many different metaphors to describe her relationship with him.
The narrator or persona of both poems also had differences. “My Papa’s Waltz” had a more pleasant narrator that portrayed the kinship between the father and son. The lines, “The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy/But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy” (Roethke, 1-4), tell us that the father is very drunk, and that the son is hanging on very tightly to his father while they are waltzing, or dancing. But what really stood out, was the poets use of sarcasm when explaining that the father was so drunk that the fumes could have made the young boy dizzy. The persona in “Daddy” was a lot more cheerless as it captivated the hearts of the reader in a depressing manner. You don’t have to go much in the poem before reading some miserable emotions felt by Plath. In the second stanza of the poem, Plath writes “Daddy, I have had to kill you/You died before I had time” (Plath, 6-7). This just speaks louder than any other two lines in the poem because of the disheartening irony that is used to explain the frustration that the author has towards her father.
When dealing with the tones of both of these poems, it’s important that people find the words that truly capsulate the feelings that these narrators give. When reading “My Papa’s Waltz”, I noticed a playful tone that helped me, the reader; understand that this was a story of a cheerful family that enjoyed being together and having good-natured fun. For example, Roethke writes, “We romped until the pans/Slid from the kitchen shelf/My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself” (Roethke, 5-8). Some may think of this as the mother being upset at the drunken father, but instead I find it being her concern for her pots and pans that fell out of the shelf as the two were waltzing through the kitchen. The tone in Plath’s “Daddy” is more ominous and dark than anything else. For example, at the end of the poem, Plath compares her father to a vampire that no one likes. She writes “There's a stake in your fat black heart/And the villagers never liked you/They are dancing and stamping on you/They always knew it was you/Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through” (Plath, 76-80). That ending is as dark as they come, and truly signified an ominous poem for me.
A setting to a poem is very