Parallels of The Dance of Life in My Papa’s Waltz and Saturday Night Fever
Throughout the ages, dance has played an important role in society. It symbolizes tradition, family, bonding, and entertainment. In almost every decade of the twentieth century, a different style of dance prevailed. In the 1970s, John Travolta brought disco dancing into the spotlight with his portrayal of Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. Through his depiction of this character, John Travolta shows the monumental effects of dancing. Literature can also artfully explore the effect of dance on people. Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" dramatizes a special and positive moment in a boy's life. The author's word choice reflects the significance of this moment of bonding between a father and his son. Some critics have seen this boy's memories as a recollection of a time of abuse. This poem does not reflect an instance of abuse, but rather a dance of life.
In Saturday Night Fever, Tony and his friends often drink before and after they dance. It is a part of their routine, but it does not affect how special the moments are that he shares with his partner. As the waltz begins, the poem presents readers with an initial sensory image in which they learn that the father has alcohol on his breath (Roethke 536). As they waltz, the boy "hangs on like death" (536). This imagery and the strong simile may cause readers to subconsciously decide that the child is in an unhealthy situation. However, the first line of the next stanza explains that the father and son "romped until the pans slid from the shelf" (536). Hans Guth and Gabriele Rico agree with the interpretation that I had, in saying that "Romp is usually an approving word" (Guth and Rico 536). This word expresses a feeling of happy energy, which reflects how positive the occurrence was for the child.