Throughout American Literature, one can notice many writings focus on either mother/daughter relationships or father/son relationships. These relationships are described in various ways, but one very common way involves parental love towards sometimes unappreciative children. This parental love is displayed in many different ways, and the child's attitude towards the parent also differs. One pattern is clear; tragedy often occurs with parental love, and the relationships are troubled. By examining Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays," Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People," and Anne Sexton's "Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman," one can gain a better understanding of the parental love and underlying tragedy of parent/child relationships in American Literature.
Although Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," has often been read as a father beating his son, another reading exists. This reading suggests the theme of troubled, tragic love between the father and son. The poem opens with, "The whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy;" which suggests the father is an alcoholic (Roethke 2321). Even though the father is in this altered state because of alcohol, the child is still looking to the father for some form of affection. Roethke writes, "But I hung on like death / Such waltzing was not easy," demonstrating how the child wanted to be around the father, even though the father was drunk (2321).
The poem goes on to describe the father/son waltz as destructive; the pans are falling off of shelves in the kitchen, causing the mother to be unhappy. The child also sustains some minor injuries; because the father is drunk, he does not have full control over his movements, which causes the child to scrape his ear on his father's belt buckle. The child, however, still holds on. The closing lines, "Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt," show the love the father has for his son (2321). Although this parental love is present, he may have a hard time showing it. The tragic element tied to parental love in this poem is the suggestion that alcohol is necessary for affection to be displayed. Alcohol has given the father the ability to show his love for his son in the form of a clumsy dance, which usually would not occur between a father and a son. Parental love is present in this poem, but it is linked to the consumption of alcohol.
[...] The tragic element tied to parental love in this poem is the suggestion that alcohol is necessary for affection to be displayed. Alcohol has given the father the ability to show his love for his son in the form of a clumsy dance, which usually would not occur between a father and a son. Parental love is present in this poem, but it is linked to the consumption of alcohol. Robert Hayden's “Those Winter Sundays,” also demonstrates the tragic love between a parent and child. [...]
[...] in philosophy. Mrs. Hopewell, indeed, does not understand her daughter. She cannot imagine having to tell other people her daughter is a philosopher; she would much rather say her daughter was a teacher, or some other profession (2573). Since mother and daughter are so distant and really cannot understand each other, the love Mrs. Hopewell has for her daughter is very tragic. The mother/daughter relationship at the heart of Anne Sexton's “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman,” is not as clear cut as in “Good Country People.” The daughter's reaction to her mother is not present in this poem, yet tragedy is still present, linked with the parental love displayed in the poem. [...]
[...] Parent/child relations are a very common subject of American Literature. Although portrayed in many different ways, a common occurrence within parent/child relationships is the expression of parental love with an underlying sense of tragedy. This type of tragic love can be observed in Theodore Roethke's Papa's Waltz,” Robert Hayden's “Those Winter Sundays,” Flanney O'Connor's “Good Country People,” and Anne Sexton's “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman,” among many others. Although the individual relationships between the parents and children in these works of literature differ, the idea of tragic love permeates through them [...]
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