My Papa's Waltz Imagery

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Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”, written in 1942 toward the end of World War II, focuses on a scene between father and child. There are two clear sources of imagery in this poem, one is of dancing while the other is violence. True these two are complete opposite and many people don’t see them relating. Lucky for the reader Roethke’s connects the two fluently to paint a picture for us. The first example of dancing is the whole poem keeps a steady three beat per line rhythm just like a waltz does. Just as the poem keeps this beat Roethke mentions “Such waltzing was not easy” (4) this allows the reader to fully think of the father and son dancing around trying to master the dance. Another example of keeping the three step rhythm is “You beat time on my head” (13). The…show more content…
The wording here is interesting due to the fact that it is only used during extreme circumstances. Roethke does the same sense of imagery with the word “beat” (13). Within the poem Roethke uses dancing to represent an abusive fight between father and his child. The reader can get this from the struggle of the boy to dance with his father and to keep up “But I hung on like death/such waltzing was not easy” (3-4). Also fully in the next stanza we get the scene of rough housing and the mother not approving but also not doing anything, “We romped/My mother’s countenance/Could not unfrown itself” (5-8). Next the reader gets a sense of abuse from the fact that when something went wrong the father would abuse the child, “At every step you missed/My right ear scraped a buckle” (11-12). Yet in the head despite the abuse the son receives from his father often he still loves him wanting his father’s love in return “Then waltzed me off to bed/still clinging to your shirt” (15-16). The relationship between father and son is very complex due to the fact that the son does not like the abuse but he still puts up with it because he loves his
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