The Poetry of Li-Young Lee

“The Gift” and “My Papa’s Waltz”: Values Are Caught, Not Taught College

Both the speakers in “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee and “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke look up to their fathers with wide-eyed admiration. In comparing the two poems, what stands out the most is the similar theme; that is, each boy has received a gift from his father. In both poems the father is very influential to his son, as the speaker is a young boy who learns a from his father's actions rather than his father's words. Both speakers share a similar relationship to the father, which can be understood through the speakers' tones, figurative language, and memorable images.

In terms of narrative voice, the speakers in “The Gift” and “ My Papa’s Waltz” are very similar. The diction in both poems makes it clear that the speaker is now an adult who is looking back on a childhood memory. The speaker in “The Gift” is remembering a time when his father pulled a splinter from his hand. The speaker says “I was seven when my father/took my hand like this” (24-25). While the memory shared is an experience of the speaker when he was seven, he is telling the story as an adult. The speaker has carried the memory with him from a child and now he is older and married. This sense of remembrance is clear when speaker says, “I bend over my...

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