In discussions of “My Papa’s Waltz,” one controversial issue has been that several people believe it’s an abuse issue. On the other hand, some readers argue it is not abuse although, a loving dance between a father and son. While the subject of “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke has spurred passionate academic debate from professors, scholars, and students alike, the imagery, syntax, and diction of the poem clearly support the interpretation that Roethke writes “My Papa’s Waltz” to show a beating of a son by his father that is told in a beautiful dance. Roethke uses imagery, syntax and diction which brings his poem together to reveal a profound meaning.
Analysis of “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke Since the genesis of the traditional family unit, parents play an immutable and paramount role in the nurturing of their children and successive progenies. Universally, in most societies, it is widely acknowledged that the father is the figurehead of the family unit. However, the role of the father is not cogently defined, especially in the contemporary society, and may vary from one family to another. On the one hand, there are fathers that act as the temporal providers to their children till they grow to adulthood.
My Papa’s Waltz is a poem written by Theodore Roethke. The poem is a memory of a short moment of his childhood. The setting of the poem is in a kitchen. The poem starts when the dad comes home and his son hangs himself on to his dad. This poem has a simple abab rhyme scheme. The cool thing about this poem being written in iambic trimeter is that it becomes not just a poem about a waltz, but a waltz itself, because there are three beats in a waltz.
The relationship between father and son is one that is both sacred, yet complex as each side of the relationship faces hardships. This relationship between a son and his role model, a father and his child, is one, has its ups, but one must also know it has downs. In Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz,” Roethke’s use of ambiguity through diction allows room for the audience to interpret the text in a positive or a negative way, representing the relationship between a father and a son, which on the outside can be interpreted in an either positive or a negative way. Roethke’s use of diction creates an element of confusion for the audience of his poem.
The fact, that most people infer this poem to be about abuse is reasonable. however, according to Roethke’s biography, his father passed away due to cancer in 1923, when he was just 14, basically forcing him to become head of the family. In results to this, Roethke suffered from depression and other mental illnesses, and not to mention, his mental breakdown in 1935. Influenced by this tragic event, he then later wrote “My Papa’s Waltz” in 1942. Nevertheless, with his use of diction and sensory imagery, he successfully provided readers with an unexpected controversy.
“My Papa’s Waltz” is written from the perspective of someone looking back on a vivid memory from their childhood. The poem demonstrates a problematic father son relationship. The playful tones of “romped until the pans slid” and “waltzed me off to bed” show that the child had love for his father. However, the concerning tones of “the whiskey on your breath”, “scraped a buckle”, and “you beat time on my head” reveal the abusive behavior of an alcoholic father toward his son. While reading this poem, the sensory and kinesthetic imagery immersed me in the experience.
“My Papa's Waltz”, by Theodore Roethke, and “Those Winter Sundays”, by Robert Hayden are the two poems that are somewhat similar and both of these poems are about beloved fathers. Father is the man who is spends time with you and takes care of you. While doing so much for the family he gains the respect and love from the family. In these two poems Roethke and Hayden take a flashback at the actions of their fathers. Even though both of these poems propose that their fathers were not perfect, they still love them. I think that Roethke and Haden are regretting that they couldn’t express their feeling to their beloved fathers. They didn’t have strong bonding with their fathers like we have now. Both of the poets are capable of writing great poems
The father/son relationship are shown in both poems. Both are adults reflecting on their past. “My Papa’s Waltz” is about how the father would dance daily with the son. Although it was painful when he sometimes missed a step and his “right ear scraped a buckle”, this was a memorable memory for the son (Line 8). The poem has a happy tone of the sons childhood days.
Chiu Ching 3U (8) My Papa’s Waltz Questions 1. Comment on the simile in the first stanza. (3 marks) The simile used in the first stanza is “I hung on like death”(3). The next line, “Such waltzing was not easy”(4) suggests that the father and son’s boisterous, wild “romping”(5) around was difficult for the child, and he had to hang on tightly because the father was romping around drunkenly and did not hold onto him well.
The mother has nothing but a “countenance” expression to the actions the father is doing to his child. It can show that the narrator didn’t know anything better but to love. Although the poem may sound simple and easy to understand, My Papa’s Waltz is really a complex story
Meanwhile, Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” the speaker implies abuse through a metaphor about dancing, where, in lines 5, 6, and 11- 13 the speaker vaguely mentions abuse, saying “We romped until the pans/ slid from the kitchen shelf”, “at every step you missed/ my right ear scraped a buckle./ you beat time on my head.” These lines imply the father is abusive, boisterously beating the child in the kitchen so much so that pans fell, without actually saying so. In both poems, the speaker experiences abuse from the father figure in their
The subject of “My Papa’s Waltz” poem by Theodore Roethke has spurred passionate academic debate from professors, scholars, and students alike, the imagery, syntax, and diction of the poem clearly support the interpretation that Roethke writes “My Papa’s Waltz ” to describe the fond relationship with his father as a child. It has been argued that If he was being abused that he would have run away when he had the chance, rather, he didn’t want to let go of his father because they both were having fun. The son’s mother was growing due to motherly instinct out of her son’s safety of how crazy they were walzting, but made no attempts at the son and father’s intervention because it wasn’t necessary to interrupt them. Ultimately to describe
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.