Essay about My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke

Essay about My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke

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Any interpretation of this story is due to the reader’s personal emotions and feelings toward his or her own Papa. This story can be either a dance between him and his father, thus bringing them closer together. However, there is a darker side of this poem, on this side it is an unsettling fight between a boy and his drunken father and all the intimacy of the dance does not make an impression on the reader and is overshadowed by the anger they feel.
Theodore Roethke manipulates our emotions in this poem using literary convention. A Waltz is a lighthearted, easily accessible dance. In a waltz, a couple sways back and forth as they go in a circle. Our emotions of this poem seem to follow this same path as we can see comforting and frightening images at the same time in this poem making us go in circles on whether this poem is about a boy dancing with his father, or a boy fighting his father. An example of this “waltz” we have in this poem is in the first stanza as we get the frightening image of “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy” (Line 1-2). Then he follows with “we romped,” thus undercutting the serious tone that we are given from the first stanza; however, the romping is giving seriousness immediately when the pans slide from the kitchen shelves and “The mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself.” Another part that can be taken in either a positive or a negative reading is when the poem reads, “The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle.” This can mean that his father was a hardworking man whose hands are altered from working long hours as a grafter, or this could mean that his hand was battered because it is the same hand being used to beat him. This gives us yet another spin on our emo...


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...e fathers overpowering the son to do what he wants. The clinging in the last line can be viewed as the boy just trying to survive and is grabbing whatever he can to just make it through this ordeal. There is no way for him to fight back due to him being so young, because in the first stanza just for him to hang on is not easy. The narrator could focus on many other instances with his father, but he does not because this one hurts him the most deep down. He does not describe his father he just focuses on his knuckles and belt.
There is no clear correct way to analyze the poem and judge who is more correct is in the reader’s hand not the writers. If to readers sought different meanings each party would have a valid reason to why theirs is correct and the opposite party must accept it. The one agreeable argument is that this is an interesting and powerful poem.

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