“Forgiving My Father”, “Those Winter Sundays”, “My Papa’s Waltz”, and “Father From Asia” are literary pieces that tell about the fathers and the attitudes of the speakers towards them. The personas express their different feelings for the father they had. Lucille Clifton’s “Forgiving My Father” talks about a daughter’s bitterness towards her father. Throughout the poem, the negative side of the patriarch is shown. The persona describes what her father did, and it shows him as an irresponsible provider as he doesn’t give his family what they need.
The speaker says that the father would give all that he has which was nothing. She also mentions what she wants to do and what she would’ve done. Although the title is about forgiving the father, the poem doesn’t seem to speak about forgiveness at all. The mood is the same in Shirley Geok-Lin Lim’s “Father From Asia”. The father is also depicted as a lousy provider. It was also mentioned in the poem that there is a large gap between the whole family and the father. Anger resonates throughout the poem as the speaker expresses his/her sentiments towards the father who brought poverty to the family.
In the next piece, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, the persona tells of how he was feeling and experiencing as his father was “waltzing” him. In the poem, the persona simply narrates his experience in detail, which makes the father appear to be abusing them. Roethke’s use of words, such as “hung on like death”, “romped” and “battered”, make the poem appear violent. “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden tells the story of a son remembering an event wherein he saw his father’s ways of providing for his family. The boy recounts what his father did on a winter day, and the efforts to keep the family comfortable.
The poem implies a lack of communication or a gap between the father and son. This may be the reason why the son failed to recognize, at that time, that this was his father‘s way of showing that he cares. But the last two lines of the piece seem to express his appreciation for what the father did for him and his family. This poem appears to have a tone of regret for not recognizing a father’s love. Of all these four, Lim’s “Father From Asia” seems to express anger the most. She speaks of her father as though he is just a worthless creature. As her narration says, the father does not give her and her family anything.
The tone in the poem somehow makes the readers feel for the speaker. Author Shirley Geok-Lin Lim uses words that are so full of resentment that readers can also feel the hatred of the persona. Even though she already seems to understand their situation, resentment is still reflected in the poem. The father is the one she blames for the poverty she experienced in her childhood. The persona already knows that it would be a waste of time to think about the father who left her with these bad memories, which she compares to worthless dust that can easily be blown away. This leads her to the decision of leaving her past and her father behind.
All four fathers did something that made the speakers angry. In the cases of the characters of Roethke, Clifton and Hayden, there seems to be forgiveness. The speaker in “Those Winter Sundays” admitted that he is also to blame for the poor relationship he had with his father. Through this and his own reasoning he has resolved the resentments he had for his father. Even though the speaker’s feelings for his father were not implied in the first two stanzas, the last stanza of the poem shows what his relationship with his father was and what he really felt towards him.
In Roethke’s work, the persona’s forgiveness was shown through the analogy he made between the abuse he experienced and a waltz. He was able to deal with his anger by converting a tragic memory such as an abuse into an enjoyable, and in this case violent, activity which is dancing the waltz. The speaker in Clifton’s “Forgiving My Father” shows that she has already accepted the past abuses done to her and her mother, although the thought of his father haunts her from time to time. Figures of speech in the poem indicate this. There is also a part of the poem wherein she gives up on him, and she no longer sees him as her responsibility.
This shows that the speaker has come to the point of acceptance but it is still hard to say if she has already forgiven the father. However, Lim’s “Father from Asia” did not show forgiveness, simply because she decided to forget everything about him. Instead of granting the forgiveness to her father, she chooses to banish him from her thoughts as though he did not and does not exist at all. She doesn’t want to deal with her feelings for her father anymore, and this is why she opts to bury these feelings. The poems expressed a negative attitude towards the fathers but only Hayden’s persona shows a positive attitude as well.
He acknowledges the fact that the father tries to really provide for the family. And at the last stanza he realizes what his father had given him. He realizes that the father did provide warmth and cleanliness for him. These four poems talk about attitudes towards fathers. The authors treated these in different manners which is reflected by their use of words and tone. Nonetheless, all express negative attitudes. There were no clear indications of forgiveness in the part of the speakers, but some manage to show even a little positive attitude towards their fathers.