Figurative Language In My Papa's Waltz

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In the poem, My Papa’s Waltz, the speaker, Theodore Roethke, writes about a father and son waltzing. Further investigation suggests there is more going on than a waltz. The poet utilizes figure of speech and a negative toned vocabulary throughout the poem. Thus, alleviating the reader of the harsh truth of an abusive relationship whilst never dehumanizing the father. Roethke employs a metaphorical figure of speech to achieve a deeper meaning. For instance, the speaker influences the reader by putting the name of the dance in his title. Furthermore, this incorporation of vocabulary makes the reader think of it as a dance. As the reader nears the end of the first quatrain there is a turn of events. For example, in the first quatrain the poet uses negative toned vocabulary: “But I hung on like death: / Such waltzing was not easy” (Roethke, 3-4). Specifically, the word ‘death’ sticks out because dancing is supposed to be fun not scary. Additionally, the poet has, once again,…show more content…
He does this to not bombard the reader with a dark abusive poem. This can be seen by the metaphorical style of writing he has incorporated in his poem. For instance, the poet chooses a dance instead of outright saying it was an abusive encounter. Additionally, it shows the love the speaker has for the father. Instead of degrading the father he makes him more human to the reader by adding descriptive words. For example, the speaker describes what his father’s hands look like: “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (Roethke, 14). In other words, his father is a hard worker that provides for them and this gives him human qualities. He does this because he loves his father no matter what altercation comes about. For example, the speaker ends the poem by describing how he is put to bed: “Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt” (Roethke, 15-16). Instead of running away in fear, he is holding on to his
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