My Papa 's Waltz By Theodore Roethke Essay

My Papa 's Waltz By Theodore Roethke Essay

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Theodore Roethke was born on May 25th, 1908. He grew up in Saginaw, Michigan and had a close relationship with his father. Following his father 's death, Roethke wrote many poems about family life. Many believe that “My Papa’s Waltz” is based on true experiences. It was written during the 1940s and differs from most poems. The title of “My Papa’s Waltz” reveals a lot about the contents of the poem. “My” explains the personal relationship told within the story. “Papa’s” shows innocence because this name is common for children to use when speaking about their fathers. “Waltz” refers to a repetitive and fun dance. Roethke used ambiguity to allow the reader to have several outlooks on the poem. The two central themes of the poem are the importance of love within family, and the atrocities of child abuse. Roethke uses imagery, diction, and easy flowing structure to help develop the varying themes.
“My Papa’s Waltz” contains imagery that can be interpreted in several ways. When the boy sees his father’s hand that “Was battered on one knuckle” (10), one assumes his battered knuckles are because of hard work or inflicting abuse on his child. The line “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (14) depicts the father as a hard-working laborer. This also suggests that he is pushed to the limit because of his work. As the father and child were in a waltz, the narrator states, “My right ear scraped a buckle” (12). This reveals that the child was bumping into his father’s belt while dancing, or that he was being beat by his father’s belt. “You beat time on my head” (13) means the father was tapping the rhythm on the child 's head, or that the father was abusing him for a long time. The reader is left with the lines “Then you waltzed me off to bed/ St...

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... the theme of familial importance. If the reader sees the waltz as a strict form of choreography, then they might agree with the theme of atrocities in child abuse.“My Papa’s Waltz” has an overall structure that goes along with the theme of waltz dancing.
In Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”, his imagery, diction, and structure allow the ambiguous theme to be conveyed thoroughly. This poem is for one to solely interpret because there is no specific explanation whether the theme was of love or abuse. Roethke wanted to create an ambiguous poem to promote individuality and not confine readers into a literary work with only one right path of interpretation. There were many subtexts within the imagery and diction use that made readers question if their interpretation was correct. Roethke’s genius within this poem is how he makes readers wonder what side they should agree with.

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