Analysis Of Theodore Roethke 's My Papa 's Waltz Essay

Analysis Of Theodore Roethke 's My Papa 's Waltz Essay

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When one becomes a father, he undertakes many responsibilities: setting a positive example, enforcing discipline for misbehavior, overviewing the safety of his children, providing a loving atmosphere, and numerous other tasks. In Theodore Roethke’s poem, “My Papa’s Waltz,” the narrator reminisces on the memories of his “papa” through the metaphor of an aggressive “waltz.” Using descriptions of the father’s actions and the reactions of the mother, Roethke illustrates the situation with carefully selected vocabulary. These actions of the narrator’s “papa” can be interpreted as either positive and loving or as inappropriate and unnecessary. After a brief analysis of the poem, readers might assume that the narrator’s memories of his father reflect a fond reminiscence; however, after an extensive analysis one can conclude that the poem primarily aims to expose the father’s immaturity and neglect of his intrinsic responsibilities.
The immaturity of the father figure is first reflected in his ignorance of the unsafe nature of his behavior. The narrator admits that the father’s whiskey-smelling breath “could make a small boy dizzy” and that “such waltzing was not easy.” These lines insinuate that the father disregarded his responsibility for the safety of his child and that he was either too drunk or too oblivious to see that the child struggled with the exercise demanded of him. The narrator also discusses the physical harm of the drunkenness by elucidating the instances in which the boy is injured by the scraping of his ear against his father’s buckle. Had the father been fully conscientious of his actions, he would have observed the inflicted pain and terminated his actions to care for his son; however, due to his drunkenness he could...


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...at implied happiness or comfort. The author was clearly aware that at first glance, readers typically assume the poem is about an abusive relationship; nevertheless, he neglected to alter his poem, demonstrating the idea that negative memories of the father do exist.
The father in “My Papa’s Waltz” is portrayed by the narrator as one who neglects his responsibilities of ensuring safety and being a positive role model. Using many examples and implying this through writing techniques, the narrator represents the father in a way other than a loving dad. Despite the use of certain words such as “papa” and “waltz,” the overall connotation represented throughout the poem seems to concentrate more heavily on the negative aspects of the narrator’s memories. For these reasons, one can conclude that the poem aims to illuminate the immaturity and irresponsibility of the father.

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