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My papa's waltz

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“My Papa’s Waltz” is a poem written by Theodore Roethke describing a son’s memory of his drunken father. At the start of the poem, one might assume that it is a poem about how the father beats the son, but it does not specifically say that it is about domestic violence. It simply states that the father was drunk and that he and his son were “waltzing” around the house. To some, the act of “waltzing” is an act of love, despite the father being drunk. To others, it could mean that the father was abusive and was harming his son. As one continues reading the poem, one might question whether the poem is about violence at all.
The wording of the poem is general. It does not state exactly what is happening at times so all the readers can do is interpret what the poem is saying based on what the poem does say. One of the few things that is clear in the poem is that in the start of the poem, the father was drunk “The whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy” (1-2) and that the father grabbed his son and was waltzing with him. This could either mean that the father was getting physical with his son in a violent manner simply because he was under the influence, or was dancing with him. If they were just dancing, one can just imagine that the son just got on his father’s shoes, and the father was the one dancing. This is unclear simply because when one is drinking, the way they act is unpredictable. The wording of the poem makes it seem like the son is either using the word waltz to make the readers know that his drunken father was not being violent but showing affection in an uncommon way or to hide the violence that may have been happening.
Because the father was drunk, he is viewed as a violent character. Typically, drunken...

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...p the waltz at times because of his current state. Roethke’s father worked in a greenhouse owned by him and his brother. Knowing where the father worked, certain things of the poem describing the father, such as his battered knuckle and palm caked hard by dirt, now are explained. His battered knuckles weren’t from violence, they were from his job. Looking at the poem now, one can see that there are hardly any hints of violence.

Works Cited

Schaub, Joseph. ""My Papa's Waltz"." Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 3
Mar. 2014 .
Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2008.
"Poetry Analysis my Papas Waltz by Theodore Roethke." By Nicole Leilani. 03 Mar.
2014.
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