Conflicts in Father and Son Relationships

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ENC1102 - Hendricks
Home and Family Literary Analysis
In American Literature, readers can find many stories and poems, both fiction and non-fiction, that center around family dynamics. The stories and poems usually focus on relationships within the family structure at a turning point in one of the central "character's" lives. Some stories focus on a strong and positive maternal or fraternal central character with an offspring who lacks focus or is unappreciative of his family and other stories centralize the younger generation and the impact that their parents actions or inactions have on them. In particular, strong relationships between fathers and sons sometimes cause conflict and grief, as depicted in "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke, "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner, and "Killings" by Andre Dubus.

To begin, the title of "My Papa's Waltz", written by Theodore Roethke, allows for the assumption that the poem will be about some form of dance between father and son. Once read, it can be analyzed that it is a dance of equal amounts of a young son's embarrassed adoration and fear for his father who is a drunken gardener. The poem opens with: "The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy." (Roethke 754). The opening lines construe that the condition of his father could intimidate or cause fear in most young children but the young son loved his father even with his problems and was willing to navigate the troubled path with him in order to be near him.

The poem construes another complexity to the father / son relationship by introducing ignorance to mild harm in lines eleven through fourteen, "At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle. You beat time on my head with a palm caked hard by dirt," (Roethke 754). The father was obviously too inebriated to notice that with every step, whether intentional or not, his belt buckle was hitting is son's ear as he was...
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