Examine Victor’s relationship to his father in the story “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona” and the boy’s relationship to his Papa in the poem “My Papa’s Waltz.” 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear that both of the children in these texts, Victor and the boy in "My Papa's Waltz," have a rather complicated relationship with their father. This is shown by Victor's awkward feelings about his father and also how his father left him when he was a young boy. It is only when Victor travels to reclaim his father's body and belongings that he is able to reclaim what was both good and bad about his father, remembering both the happy memories and the sad ones, and achieving some kind of balance between them. Note how this is described when Victor and Thomas reach the caravan that belonged to his father:

Victor was quiet for a long time. He searched his mind for memories of his father, found the good ones, found a few bad ones, added it all up, and smiled.

The way in which Victor "smiled" at the end of this process of "adding" up all the memories indicates that he has gained a measure of peace in his relationship with his father that was absent before. He has managed to accept both the bad and acknowledge the good in his father, and is able to move on and remember him for who he was rather than just remembering the pain and sadness in his relationship with him.

In the same way, in "My Papa's Waltz," it is clear that the speaker, the boy who is waltzing with his father, has a rather mixed relationship with his father. On the one hand, there is something resembling fear as the boy recognises that his father is completely drunk, and he reports how his "right ear scraped a buckle" at every step that his father missed. However, at the same time, the stanzas create a picture of curious intimacy and love alongside this more negative impression, in particular the last stanza:

You beat time on my head   
With a palm caked hard by dirt,   
Then waltzed me off to bed   
Still clinging to your shirt.
 
It is clear from this final verse of the poem that although the boy in some way fears his father and has a difficult relationship with him, at the same time, the way his fahter "beats time" on his head and then "walted" his son "off to bed" whilst he is still "clinging" to his father's shirt indicates a measure of love. Both texts are therefore similar in the way that they acknowledge a mixture of feelings, some positive, and some negative, in the relationships between fathers and sons.
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