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"Forgiving My Father" By Lucille Clifton.

916 words - 4 pages

As a person treads through life, he or she will realize at one point or another that the existence of complex relationships will often have an affect on the actions of those involved. The nature of these relationships can have either a positive or negative effect on a person depending on the nature of it, or how severe its elements are. It is human nature to hold emotions inward and uphold a proud countenance; however, those who go against this natural tendency will exert a rebellion of sorts to any and every falsehood. In the poem "forgiving my father" by Lucille Clifton, the speaker describes a daughter is haunted by recollections of strife between her and her father. The speaker in the poem actually seeks to hold her father accountable for his shortcomings instead of forgiving him for his deficiencies. In the poem "My papa's waltz" by Theodore Roethke, it is clear that the papa and the child have a relationship sprinkled with fear, joy and love. Both fathers in the poems are dangerous to their child in many ways. In Clifton's poem, the speaker is in danger because of the mental distress and financial instability caused by her father. In Roethke's poem, the speaker is in danger mainly due to his father's abusive behavior.In Clifton's poem, the speaker is using a monetary debt to symbolize a debt of love and affection. The father in this poem is unable to provide the necessary care for his family which leads to the early death of the speaker's mother, and causes mental distress to the speaker. The speaker is haunted by her father even in sleeping. "all week you have stood in my dreams/like a ghost, asking for more time"(Clifton, Lucile "forgiving my father", line 3-4) How can a ghost pay debts and asking for more time? It cannot. The word "ghost" symbolizes the worriment that the speaker has over the unpaid debts and lacks of care. While on the other hand, the father in Roethke's poem, comes home drunk after a long day just in time for his son's bedtime."The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy/We romped until the pans/Slid from the kitchen shelf;/My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself." (Roethke, Theodore "My Papa's Waltz", line 5-8) Envisioning a heavy-drunk man romping through the house with his small son, it is easy to see why a mother may frown at the spectacle. It is nearly time for bed, and the father is doing everything to get the son riles up rather than calm down for sleep. The fact that the romping dance is even disrupting the order of the mother's "kitchen shelf" surely contributes to her frowning countenance. Instead of bringing joy and love to their home, neither one of the fathers...

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