New Criticism In My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

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New Criticism attracts many readers to its methods by appealing to them with simple steps in order to criticize any work of literature. According to Steven Lynn it “focuses attention on the work itself, not the reader or the author or anything else” (21). It dismisses the use of all outside sources, asserting that the only way to truly analyze a poem efficiently is to focus purely on the poem. However, my New Criticism approach will include counterparts between the text and historical contexts, such as the author’s life. For this I chose to analyze the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke. One can assume that the speaker is a young boy, or perhaps the poet reminiscing his youth. Upon first glance, the tone is humorous, and a picture is presented of a boy waltzing with his father. This scene is comical with the boy clinging on for dear life as his chuckling father spins him around. The father dances around in a haphazard manner, knocking over pans in the kitchen while the mother looks on unhappily. Yet the poem takes a turn downward, suggesting the father’s drunkenness and the boy’s right ear being scraped by the buckle signifies the dance was not…show more content…
“To go forward (as a spiritual man) it is necessary first to go back” (Roethke). Roethke regretted his relationship with his father, for he died when he was only a teenager and this poem is just one of many that probed the darkness of his childhood. Each of his poems are complete in itself; yet each in a sense is a stage in a kind of struggle out of the slime; part of a slow spiritual progress; an effort to be born, and later, to become something more ( This poem is full of prevailing imagery, strong diction, and sound figures of speech that make It easy for the reader to imagine fully the scene that takes
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