Roethke’s word choice in the title allow him to convey a cheery, yet solemn tone and set the scene for the rest of the poem. Although the title of the poem seems straightforward, the diction illustrates the mood for the rest of the poem. Instead of using the word “dance,” Roethke chooses to use “waltz,” which immediately gives the poem an upbeat rhythm. The reader expects a lively poem describing a dance between a father and his son. Roethke sets the scene with the title to allow the reader to focus on the language of the poem rather than waste lines describing the scene. Additionally, Roethke utilizes “papa” rather than “father” in the title. This gives the poem a more personal touch by demonstrating the closeness between the boy and his father. The word “father” generally has a negative connotation, whereas “papa” has a positive connotation. Once again, Roethke displays a cheerful tone through his choice of words.
In addition to conveying tone and setting the scene, Roethke’s diction highlights the theme of a child’s admiration for his parents. In the third and fourth lines, Roethke describes the boy trying to keep up w...
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...sthetic, and visual imagery to further portray the father’s hands. He illustrates, “You beat time on my head / With a palm caked hard by dirt,” (13-14). Although the father could just be keeping time, the word “beat” carries a more violent connotation. In addition, the word “beat” evokes an image of harming a child, especially because “beat” corresponds with the father’s “battered” knuckle. Despite the imagery of violence, the reader still recognizes the child’s unconditional admiration for his father. Roethke’s clever way of using imagery that has two meanings allows the reader to feel the undercurrent of violence, but at the same time, grasp how much the child loves his father.
Theodore Roethke employs the use of diction, style, and imagery to create a relatable and emotional poem through which he can assert the theme of a child’s unwavering love for his parents.
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