Comparing the Dance of Life in My Papa?s Waltz and Saturday Night Fever

Comparing 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.



Dancing, with its often happy energy, can be magical. This magic can alter a relationship between two people, even if only for the duration of the dance. In Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero and his dancing partner, Stephanie Migano had a platonic relationship. This relationship changed into something else on the dance floor. They bonded; they had a mesmerizing connection to each other. This is parallel to the situation in ?My Papa?s Waltz.? Readers do not know about the relationship between this father and son, but he recalls this moment for a reason. That waltz helped them bond. The last stanza supports the positiveness of this dance as the boy explains that his father ?then waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt? (Roethke 536). The fact that the child clings to his father suggests that he did not want the moment to end. The child may have understood that the waltz was a once in a lifetime experience and he literally wanted to hang on to it.



Tony and Stephanie never spoke of what happened to them when they danced, but they both treasured that time. By the time of the release of the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Tony was no longer in touch with Stephanie, but he continued to dance. He would always be able to connect his dancing to those special moments with her. This boy obviously remembers this time with his father and he remembers it fondly. He reflects on this moment using strong words and imagery. When this boy is away from his father, whether because of time, space, or death, he will always have that dance that he remembers with clear detail. This was a dance of life; it was his papa?s waltz.

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