Poetry is made to express the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of the poet. The reader can interpret the poem however they see fit. Critics are undecided about the theme of Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz." Some people believe that the poem is one of a happy exchange between a father and son. The more convincing interpretation is that it has a hidden message of parental abuse. Careful analysis of the keywords and each individual stanza back up this theory of child abuse by a violent and drunken father.
The word that is key to the poem is romp. Roethke states that "we romped until the pans / slid from the kitchen shelf" (5-6). The word is usually associated with happy, boisterous, and energetic running around or dancing. A second definition is rough, lively play. Alcohol would cause a person to act in such a harsh manner. In athletics, a romp is an easy victory over an easy opponent. This means one side is clearly superior and beats the competition with fury and ease. The father could be viewed as a dominating and overpowering force to a small child. The younger son could not possible fight back to his bigger father especially with the added influence of liquor. Further reading of the poem will back up that meaning of the poem is to illustrate parental abuse.
The first stanza sets the scene with clear imagery. The father appears to be in a heavily drunken state because the son can smell the "whiskey on your breath" (1). The reader knows the drinking is excessive because it almost made the boy dizzy. Clearly, the father is in a heavenly drunken state because someone else is feeling the effects of his drinking. Critics will ague that the son was enjoying ...
... middle of paper ...
... is a happy time between a father and his child. Through careful reading, that interpretation is not valid. In 1948, actions such as this may have been a part of life. Maybe that is why Roethke wrote the poem this way because the event was probably happening in many households and people then could identify with this. Because of the vivid imagery, the reader can feel the boy's pain and fear of his father. In this case, the waltz is not a bonding time between a father and his son. People now would identify with the son and find a hatred for the father because of the mental and physical toll this could have on a child. The father does his dance by "waltzing" all over his son.
Roethke, Theodore. "My Papa's Waltz." Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. Ed. Hans P. Guth and Gabriel L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997, 536.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Inevitability at one point in most of our lives we have to deal with some type of hardship. A lot of us have experienced first hand or known someone who has had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a close friend or family member who becomes abusive and aggressive because of drug or alcohol related problems. My Papa’s waltz is a poem that tells the story of a young boy dealing with an abusive father and a broken home. Despite the initial light atmosphere of the poem Theodore Roethke uses strong and powerful language to convey an underlined meaning to their dance.... [tags: My Papa’s waltz, poetry, Theodore Roethke, alcohol]
700 words (2 pages)
- “The Unforgettable Waltz” My Papa’s Waltz is a powerful poem written by Theodore Roethke. The title of the poem set my expectations on a poem about someone dancing with their father. As I read the poem, I noticed my expectations were not equivalent to the poem’s actual content. The author’s creative use of words in the title enhances the poem. My Papa’s Waltz consists of four quatrains written in an abab rhyme scheme. Quatrains are stanzas that contain four lines. The abab rhyming scheme means line one and three rhyme and lines two and four rhyme.... [tags: childhood experience, expectations]
519 words (1.5 pages)
- Imagery in My Papa’s Waltz Donald Hall describes the use of imagery in poetry as a device that "makes us more sensitive to [literature], as if we acquired eyes that could see through things"(p 530). Imagery creates vivid details that deal with one's sense of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. These details can be seen in Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" because the senses of touch, sight, sound, and smell appeal to the reader in order to better explain the feelings of each character in the poem.... [tags: My Papa's Waltz Essays]
703 words (2 pages)
- The poem, “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, is about a boy reminiscing about an incidence with his father. From the beginning, this poem states the conflict between a father and son involved in a rambunctious dance, but as it continues, the story suggests the dance may actually be a physical altercation. Within the line, “Such waltzing was not easy,” is the proposal this is not a singular incident, but rather a routine ritual between the boy and his father (Line 4). The speaker is an adult recollecting, to himself as the audience, a childhood memory of an incident with his father.... [tags: Theodore Roethke, Poetic Analysis]
930 words (2.7 pages)
- 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.... [tags: Father, Mother, Theodore Roethke, Responsibility]
719 words (2.1 pages)
- In the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, an image of waltzing is clearly illustrated. The symbolism and language is portrayed almost as a distant memory that the author is writing about. The main conflict in this poem is the term and main idea of waltzing. The waltz is formally known as a delicate, beautiful dance consisting of rhythm and spins. Even though it is a close bond between the father and son, it comes off quite baleful. The conflict captured in Roethke’s poem is the two different meanings of waltzing.... [tags: Poetry Analysis]
502 words (1.4 pages)
- ... This gives us yet another spin on our emotions. This pattern is repeated throughout this poem, and the waltz soon spins fast out of control to a point where we can only focus on the sequence of whirling emotion rather than coherent overall feelings. This leads to the positive and negative reading. On the positive note, it shows a hardworking father who returns from work and playfully dances with his son that he loves before taking him to bed. The whiskey on his breath is not necessarily negative due to the factors of the working class culture in 1948 when this poem was published.... [tags: poem analysis, drunken father]
684 words (2 pages)
- Analysis of My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Rothke My Papa's Waltz is by Theodore Rothke it is about a childhood memory written later in his lifetime. Theodore Rothke's dad was an alcoholic drunk. Theodore Rothke went through a period where he was depressed and mentally unstable. Theodore Rothke was fascinated by the nature of the world; many of his poems were about this subject. Some people who read My Papa&'s Waltz come to the conclusion that it is about a drunken abusive father. However, I think when he was writing this he was reminiscing about a good childhood memory from when he was around seven years old.... [tags: My Papa's Waltz Theodore Rothke Essays]
524 words (1.5 pages)
- Childhood Memories in "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke and "Piano" by D.H. Lawrence "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke and "Piano" by D.H. Lawrence are two poems in which grown men recall memories of their childhood. "My Papa's Waltz" has a quietly sad, almost resigned tone as Roethke relives his nightly dances with his father as a young boy. Lawrence's "Piano" is somewhat dreamy as a man is taken back by a song to his childhood. While both are presented to us through similar personas, striking differences are apparent throughout the two poems.... [tags: Compare Waltz Piano Essays Papers]
623 words (1.8 pages)
- In the poem "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke, the speaker is reflecting on a childhood experience involving his father. Through diction and details, the speaker conveys his complex attitudes toward his father. When first read it, it appears the young boy is afraid of his father. The first line of the poem writes: "The whiskey on your breath; could make a small boy dizzy." Apparently, the father likes whisky and the smell of it is remaining on his person, which causes the young boy's aversion.... [tags: Poetry]
502 words (1.4 pages)