Imagery In My Papa's Waltz

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Theodore Roethke’s, “My Papa’s Waltz,” uses a great deal of imagery by using the metaphor of the word “Waltz.” A Waltz is a dance that has a step to every beat of the music, while in close proximities to the other dancer, there is not much change and it is in fact quite repetitive. Already we begin to form an image Roethke is trying to provide us by saying “My Papa’s Waltz.” His usage of the word “Papa” is quite informal compared to the word, “father.” It is only upon reading and analyzing the rest of the poem that we realize the struggle tied to the word.
The first two lines of the poem paint a picture that play to our sense of smell, “The whiskey on your breath. Could make a small boy dizzy.” (1-2) His father is obviously inebriated past
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“We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf;” (5-6) we already know that the father has been drinking, Roethke’s diction leaves little to the imagination but chosen carefully have put together an educated form of rough play. We also witness in the next two lines that the mother is not at all happy about the situation, “my mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself.” (7-8) If there is a positive message from this poem, we do not see it any longer. There is no mention of the mother helping; there is just an image of a mother standing back letting the waltz…show more content…
It reads as follows, “the hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle;” (9-10) again, we see the choice of words. Roethke did not use the words “calloused hands, rough hands,” He chose “battered.” As in, this was not the first time the father had struck his son. Upon the ending of stanza four, we come across these lines, “at every step you missed, my right ear scraped a buckle.” (11-12) Now the father has transitioned from his hands, to his belt. To target the sons’ ear was not his purpose, but you could almost imagine the continuous beating with no intended target other than his son. The goal was to hurt him, does not matter where he hurt
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