You will prepare and submit a term paper on Father-Son Relations and the Cycle and Rhythms of Life. Your paper should be a minimum of 2000 words in length. Simon J. Ortiz, a Native American, depicts a nostalgic tone, as he shares the memory of planting together with his father in “My Father’s Song.” Theodore Roethke, son of German immigrants, wrote a poem, “My Papa’s Waltz,” that has a fearful tone for his father, although the intensity of his love is part of the poem’s attitude. These poems are rich in cultural symbols that assert how much their fathers and culture shaped their identity. Their content shows different kinds of father-son relationships, though both are filled with intense bonds of love, while their forms and symbolism suggest the cycle and rhythm of life that can be distinct to every father and cultural group.
Ortiz and Roethke both express intense devotions to their father, which is typical of the adoration that boys feel for their fathers, the main plot of the poems and evident in the diction that speak of their livelihoods. Ortiz remembers his father and misses him terribly. The plot of the poem talks about how he misses his father, “His voice, the slight catch,/the depth from his thin chest” (Ortiz 3-4). He misses him enough that his senses are all awakened as if he can hear, see, and feel his father. Having the kind of memory that becomes almost physically real signifies a son’s intense devotion to his father. Furthermore, Ortiz uses diction that has rich imagery that is typical of Native American language. The “tremble of emotion” (5) and his song for his son are elements of Native American identity, where oral histories are part of everyday activities shared through songs and stories. The boy in Roethke’s poem also expresses his strong love for his father. He calls him “Papa,” a term of endearment, and he does not mind that he comes home drunk and dances the waltz with him, for he still “hung on” (Roethke 3) and clung to his shirt, as his Papa waltzed him roughly to bed (Roethke 16). It does not matter if Papa’s ritual is too rough for the boy. he enjoys it anyway and takes pleasure in being the center of his father’s attention. Lisa Jadwin underlines that the boy must be terrified of his father’s smell, actions, and appearance, but it does not matter. She interprets the plot of the poem as one that “captures some of the fundamental joy a child experiences when playing with a parent and receiving that parent’s undivided attention” (Jadwin 1). The joy that the boy feels for his father’s “undivided attention” is greater than his fear. Moreover, the plot shows the diction of a working-class family and the difference between the boy and his father. The “palm caked hard by dirt” is a sign of a working-man’s life (Roethke 14). Roethke is known to not follow the working-class life of his father by being a writer, so the poem matches his real life, how he must have feared his drunken father who has a different livelihood from him (Jadwin 1). The poem shows the attitudes of fear and love, both intense emotions for his father. These two boys from Ortiz’s and Roethke’s poems are reliving bonding moments with their fathers, though they share somewhat different attitudes toward them.
Apart from the plot that shows a son’s love for his father, the poems are similar in their use of alliteration to show the impact of a father in imparting cultural values to their children. Ortiz uses alliteration that emphasizes his connection to his father. The words “son” and “song” are alliterations with internal rhymes.