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.
Since the title says that the poem is about his father’s song, and “song” blends with son too, which suggests how the song or identity of the father influences the identity of his son. The “soft” and “sand” words suggest the power of their environment in forming identities. The sand is related to planting, and planting is both an economic and cultural process for Ortiz. Leon Lewis describes Ortiz’s poetry where Ortiz sees his role in the “preservation and presentation of his cultural heritage” (1). Culture is central to “My Fathers Song. ” As Native Americans, planting is part of their way of life.
The softness of the sand indicates the tender feelings that both father and son have for the planting that does not only give them food, but also asserts their cultural connection to their Native American traditions. Roethke also shows how much his father imparted cultural values to him as a child. Waltz is something that became popular with immigrants because of its initial “scandalous” image, something that only the “Other” or the marginalized people danced (Jadwin 1).
The little boy’s father seems to dance the waltz frequently when he is drunk, for he comes with the smell of “whiskey” (1). His drunkenness may trigger cultural memories of his youth, when gayness and innocence were alive. Waltz is a cultural dance that may have important emotional functions for the father. By dancing it with his son, he tries to impart these values of freedom and happiness that he once enjoyed in his youth.
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