My Papa's Waltz Literary Devices

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Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” recounts a helpless young boys memory of abuse from his drunk father. Roethke uses many literary devices to portray the various conflicts between a father and his son. The term “Waltz” is used in reference to the violence and abuse received by the son. This poem has a truly negative impact on the reader through descriptive and vivid phrases that leave the readers with a cruel and devastating image in their heads.
Immediately, Roethke writes the primary two lines to the sons recollection of his fathers inebriation and the feelings that come with it. Roethke says, "The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy" (Roethke,1-2). Followed than by next lines that leave the reader with a cruel mental picture
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Roethke's use of imagery creates a negative picture that is painted by the son of an abusive father. Immediately the sense of smell is used to help get the reader into the mindset of the poem. “"The whiskey on your breath" (Roethke,1). The smell of whisky gives you an idea of what the boy is smelling and in a sense gives the reader the idea of how the father is. In this poem the feeling of touch is the sense being explained and described. The description of touch helps connect the reader to the pain the son goes through by his abusive father.”Was battered on one knuckle/Right ear scraped a buckle" (Roethke,10-12). This helps the reader picture the boy being beaten and how he may have looked after the fact. Both lines appeal to the readers touch and sight.The description allows for the reader to put themselves to see what the boy sees and understand the heartbreaking abuse and stress the boy is being put under.
This story although written as a dance between a son and father, is a fight. The dark and negative theme of the poem is known as soon as the poem begins.Roethke gives the readers the feeling of anger and upset by manipulating the readers emotions through descriptive and clear words that truly portray the hardcore abuse the son
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