Analysis Of The Poem ' My Papa 's Waltz ' By Theodore Roethke Essay

Analysis Of The Poem ' My Papa 's Waltz ' By Theodore Roethke Essay

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In 1908, the year this poem was written, child abuse was recognized internationally and the “Children Act of 1908” was put in place to attempt to minimize the occurrences. The narrator, a young boy in “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke uses harsh and intense wording that describes the daily rituals of abuse within the household from the father that he characterizes as a dance. A large counter argument against this poem says that the narrator is speaking out of admiration rather than fear; that the narrator and his drunken father are merrily playing around by dancing together around their house.
In the first stanza, the poem states “The whiskey on your breath / Could make a young boy dizzy”(Roethke line 1/2). Which clearly states that the father is an heavy alcoholic, And given the negative connotation alcoholism brings, this could argue that these lines introduce the poem as more of a dark poem rather than the light, happy one that the counterargument fights. Perhaps the image of his father before he became an alcoholic as well as the pride along with respect the boy had for him. “But I hung on like death” (Roethke line 3) which could indicate that the narrator feels a sense of desperation or fear that if he lets go he would lose something. Perhaps the image of his father before he became an alcoholic as well as the pride along with respect the boy had for him. The drunken father may be a mere shell of what he was sober; an image the young boy does his best to cling onto. The lines “Such waltzing was not easy”(Roethke line 4) could mean that living with his father, drunk and aggressive, is difficult.
In the second stanza “We romped until the pans / Slid from the kitchen shelf” (Roethke line 5/6 ) which...


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...lchohol. Perhaps in his mind, his son was guilty of costing him money, living as a dependent in need of food and clothing. The father then “waltzed me off to bed/ still clinging to your shirt.”(Roethke line 15 / 16). Meaning that after the beating, the narrator followed the father and went to bed without any complaints; still dreaming of the days when his father was still kind and sober, ‘clinging’ onto the hope that they one day will return.
The diction in this poem carries a rather sad tone through words like “death”, “romped”, “clinging”, and “beat”. To say that this poem is one of a light tone means that the reader overlooked all the underlying meanings within this poem. The father will most likely never recover from his alcoholism and the son will be abused until he finds a way to stand up for himself or until the mother decides to interject herself.

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