Fatherhood in the eyes of Thomas, Plath, and Roethke
A father is the most effective person on one’s psychological condition - Fatherhood in the eyes of Thomas, Plath, and Roethke introduction. Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, and Theodore Roethke tell their own stories about their own “dads”. We start out by Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night”, moving to Plath’s “Daddy”, and eventually arriving to Roethke’s “My papa’s waltz”. This piece of writing will focus on the theme of Fatherhood with which the three poets have dealt with in their dramatic monologues.
“Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night” is what Dylan names his poem. Thomas- in a firm voice tone- demands people not to surrender themselves to death easily. Well, first of all he commands old men not to die peacefully or just slip away easily from this life. He rather asks them to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” He then starts categorizing me into 4 types: Wise men, Good men, Wild men, and “his dad”! Hence, the poem addresses many types of men; however, he thinks of his father not as the grave, wild, or good, but that he is a category by himself.
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The fact that he is not concerned whether his father curses him or blesses him before his death or not shows that he is not necessarily concerned with what his father wants to say, but that he wants him to “rage against the dying of the light”. So, the father-son relationship that happens here is intimate. Thomas maybe upset about his father’s closeness to death –“sad height”—but fighting death would unburden him a bit. In fact, Thomas wants to maintain the hero-father image he has of his father to the end.
The one and only, Sylvia Plath, re-astonishes us with one of her disturbing – but artful- poems. “Daddy” which looks endearing from its title is actually quiet disturbing. The father-daughter relationship that Plath demonstrates is the kind of relationships that haunt you your whole life. Plath resembled her father to three main images: A Nazi, the Devil, a vampire, and her husband! She had also implicitly likened her father to other things like: A black shoe, a God, a swastika, and a panzer-man. Plath starts out by saying that she would not live in the “black shoe” where she “(have) lived like a foot for thirty years”. She also states that she wanted to kill him but he’d died “before (I) had time”.
The sub-images uncover when she starts to describe her God-like image of her father who- apparently- controlled her life. After all these hateful images of her father she says that “(she) used to pray to recover you”. However, with a type of character like Silvia’s we can assume that maybe she wanted him to recover so she could kill him herself! And that would explain why she was so upset with his dying before she could kill him.
The images follow to unveil the feelings that Sylvia had for her father. She associated the fear and terror of her father with the struggle of Jewish people against the Germans- a vivid disturbing image that is. She also repeats the word “black” which indicates the darkness of the father and his corrupted soul. However, when she is reminded of her natural love of her father, she justifies this “black” love by saying that “every woman adores a Fascist” and reminds herself of the “brute brute heart of a brute like (him)”.
Sylvia then “daddies” him saying that the cleft in his chin rather than his foot – the devil was described as having a huge cleft in his feet- does not make him any less devilish. Plath then relates to her father that she actually tried to get back to him by killing herself; however, when she couldn’t she made her life even worse by meeting a man like him, or as she puts it “(she) made a model of (him), a man in black with a Meinkampf look”.
So, here she goes again falling for a “black” “vampire” who is like her old man. She strangely states that she’s killed her father and her husband, but we can safely assume that the killing that takes place is only in her mind. Moreover, the father-daughter relationship that Sylvia has is one which is filled with fear, terror, fascism, and disrespect. This relationship has actually affected her mental, psychological, and relationship status. She is haunted by her Hitler-like “daddy” and decides to keep hating him.
We now come to Theodore Roethke’s “Waltz”. Theodore Roethke gives us in “My Papa’s Waltz” a fond reminiscence of a comic dance of his father and himself revealing the kind of relationship they had. He had a conflicted relationship with his father. He loved the man, but feared him at the same time. The poem starts out by Roethke suggesting that there was enough alcohol on the father’s breath to inebriate him. However, he still hangs to his father “like death”. Waltz is a simple kind of dance with easy steps, but the poet’s description of the dance as “not easy” may indicate the also not-easy father-son relationship.
We carry on into the poem to the “romping” that happens in the kitchen; we see the father’s “battered” hand holding the kid’s wrist while the “mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself”. The indication of fear stems from the mother’s reaction to the “waltzing”. She stands watching, helpless to prevent her husband and son from turning the kitchen into a mess. Hence, the mother may be intimidated by the drunken father. Then, the poet says that his ear gets scraped by a buckle of the father’s belt; this may indicate how huge the father is, and may also have a violent connotation. Another connotation of violence is “you beat time on my head”; the word “beat” may indicate the father’s use of violence with his son. The word “time” may refer to the inability of the child to forget the times in which his father used to beat him.
However, as we carry on, we discover that despite the violence the poet’s old man used, the kid adored his father! He “(hangs) on like death”, and he still “(clings) to (his father’s) shirt”. The father, though violent, was actually loved by his son, and whenever he missed a “step” in his son’s life the son was actually hurt. The dance thus serves as a metaphor for the overall relationship between father and son: intimate and vitally important, but also dizzying and anxiety provoking. The father-son relationship should’ve been smooth and easy but in reality it was awkward and stumbling. However, the son is plaintively “still clinging” to his father as if he does not want the dance –the relationship- to end. He simply found it difficult to let his father go.