Comparison and Contrast of the Persona in “Daddy” and “My Papa’s Waltz” Essay

A Comparison and Contrast of the Persona in “Daddy” and “My Papa’s Waltz”

            The poem “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath is one of her most controversial works. It was well talked about due to the message it conveys. It speaks of a person whom the persona calls “daddy.” It presents a persona with such extreme hatred towards “Daddy,” the subject of the poem.

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On the other hand, the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke presents a persona that is also angry with the subject of the poem. However, the blatant difference between the two poems is that the persona in the latter speaks of his father, while the persona in “Daddy” alludes to another man who is considered the origin of his race and not his father.

            In Plath’s “Daddy,” the persona does not seem to pertain to his or her own father but to the father of an entire clan. The persona in the poem appears to be furious at the man who made something terrible to the clan.

As may be seen from the lines, there are violent words like “kill” (lines 6 and 71) “stake in your fat, black heart” (line 76) and “buried” (line 57) (Plath, 1986, p. 110). The words used are almost morbid, conveying a feeling that is not simply anger but utter hatred accompanied by a desire for vengeance.

            On the other hand, the persona’s anger in Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”seems to be conveyed in the lines which suggest torture, such as “you beat time on my head” (line 13) (Roethke, 2009, n.p.). However, unlike that in Plath’s work, the persona in this poem does not show a desire for revenge. The hatred for the subject of the poem is not as extreme as the persona’s hatred towards the subject in “Daddy.” The entire poem only conveys to the reader the evil deeds of the subject. There are also no signs of desire to avenge the torture or agony experienced by the persona. However, there are also no symbolisms of forgiveness.

            From this, it may thus be concluded that the personas in the poems “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath, and “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, are trying to send the message that somewhere in their lifetimes, there had lived a man who caused them to feel hatred and fury. However, the persona in Plath’s poem speaks of vengeance while the hatred felt by the persona in Roethke’s poem may be considered more subtle.


Roethke, R. (2009). My Papa’s Waltz. The Poetry Archive. Retrieved June 26, 2009, from


Plath, S. (1986). Daddy. In H. Pinter, G.. Godbert, & A. Astbury (Eds.), 100 Poems by 100

Poets (p. 110). New York: Grove Press.

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