15 Aug 2022


A comparison between “Photograph of My Father in his 22nd Year” and “One for my Dame”

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The language in Roethke’s “My Papa Waltz” does suggest that the speaker recalled an unhappy memory. First of all, in stanza one line one and two, the speaker describes how unpleasant the father’s smell was. He must be a person who drank heavily thereby carrying with him a strong alcoholic smell that was so unbearable to the extent that the speaker felt dizzy. Moving on, stanza three and four of paragraph one confirms that the speaker was unhappy with the state his father put him through. The speaker admits that “such waltzing was not easy” And sadly had to “hung on like death.” 

Carver describes his father as a sheepish grin, to mean that his father was shy and insecure. Despite the insecurity and shyness deep within, he still tried to look proud of his catch to please his son. On the contrary, the second stanza describes a different man. The choice of words suggests that the father is a bold person who is proud of his achievements and very bold. For instance, “bluff and hearty” pose shows an image of masculinity that he thinks the son would need. “he leans against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.” This qualifies a person that is cool, secure of oneself, strong and proud of their achievement. To be a perfect father, he tried to overlook his weaknesses and reality to create an image for his son to gain love and respect. 

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Carver feels sad, and pity’s his father; why go along away proving him? Carver knows that his father is neither bold nor secure of self; let alone being strong. He goes ahead to confess his love for his father but admits that he is inadequate. He says that he cannot hold his liquor and does not know the places. He is unhappy because he cannot bring himself to say thank you to his father. He reflects on the kind of life he leads, and to his disappointment, he is not anywhere close to his father’s false image. The young man sympathizes with his father in the last lines of the poem when he tries to let him know that even though he tried to be the man he thought he should be, they were the same. The line “Father I love you, yet how can I say thank you,” demonstrates the hatred that Carvers feels towards his father for pretending to be what he was not. Generally, Carver endeavored to bring to the attention of readers that parents have expectations for their children. The expectations can be imposed, but in the end, they play a great role in shaping the character of the child. 

The speaker admits that initially, he wasn’t aware of the great sacrifices his father made for him. The repetition shades light on the fact that the speaker now understands a lot more about love but is unable to tell his father who perhaps is not around anymore. The last phrases bring out the complexity of parental love. The speaker has grown up only to realize how hard his father had worked for the well-being of the whole family. He would get up in the “blue-black cold” alone, and no one ever thanked him for having done these favors. He notes that Sundays too his father rose up early to mean that even the other days of the week his father woke up early as well. He describes his father’s hands as chapped with cracked skin to mean his father always worked hard. While the speaker was still sleeping, his father would polish his shoes. 

In Colossus, the descriptions of the speaker’s father suggest that the speaker looked up to her father for everything. She admits that “I am none the wiser.” She further points out that perhaps the father is “an Oracle/ Mouthpiece of the dead.” The fact that she is married to the shadow means that she is married to the shadow meaning that she is bound to this god she considers as a father. She adores the relationship they had and is not willing to let go; “Thirty years now I have labored.” 

Being a salesman meant that the father had his hands full. He traveled far away to make enough sales; “ He could clock the miles and sales and make it pay .” Even when at home with his daughter, the salesman could not alienate himself from the business talk. The statements he made were centered on his customers. Furthermore, he was always soaked into maps hopefully seeking new market opportunities. He had no time for his daughter. The business endeavors were prioritized over the relationship between him and his daughter. It is recorded that on one occasion he hid in his bedroom “on a three-day drunk” only to come out set to go on his usual business travels. The speaker was always alone. 

I am inclined to think that the tolls were described as “ticking and greedy” to suggest that once her husband started exploring them, he would never get enough of them just like the speaker’s father. The high ways are like new loves to mean that soon her husband would be busy traveling and discovering new routes to ensure he made enough sales. This would, in turn, be of paramount importance to him than spending quality time with his wife; which would be a replica of the speaker’s late father’s actions. 

As far as my observation is concerned, I find “One for my Dame” relatable. My neighbor Shirley has grown up to hate her mother for the following reasons. She is an attorney who rarely makes time for her and her siblings. She is always busy with paperwork, works late and never makes it for family vacations. They stay under the same roof but rarely see each other. Just like in “One for my Dame,” the speaker saw little of his dad who was always busy with his endeavors. 

Comparison between “Photograph of My Father in his 22 nd Year” and “One for my Dame” is as follows: both speakers have a father who plays a great role in their lives. Both poems encompass father-child relationships. While Carver’s father strived to be a role model to his son, the father in “One for my Dame” did nothing to foster a relationship between him and his a daughter. There is a feeling of nostalgia in Carver’s poem. In “One for my Dame” on the other hand, the speaker is neither nostalgic nor proud of the times she spent with his father. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). A comparison between “Photograph of My Father in his 22nd Year” and “One for my Dame” .


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