Of The Poem My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

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Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” is about a young boy who has to deal with a father who has drinking problems and is violent. The poem reads as almost negative as one starts to notice certain parts of the poem seem to be violent and show the father as almost a drunkard. “My Papa’s Waltz” is about the negative relationship between a father and his son because of the mention of alcohol, the use of the word “waltzing” in the poem, and the father beating the son. The mention of alcohol in the poem is when Roethke writes, “The whiskey on your breath” (line 1). This one line at the beginning of the poem already sets up the relationship in a negative way, because that seems to be the first thing that the persona of this poem remembers about…show more content…
Roethke writes, “You beat time on my head” (13). This line is followed by, “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (14). The use of these two lines shows that the father was strict sense he seemed to want the son to do things exactly how he wanted them. In dances like the waltz one has to do certain steps at certain times in order to perform it right. The father seems to almost be trying to train the persona of the poem to do things exactly as he says. The reason that this has negative effect on the boy is because he does not even realize that his father is not treating him right. Roethke writes, “Still clinging to your shirt” (16). This line shows that the young boy still stayed near his father even though the father was being abusive to him. This just goes to show that the persona of the poem thought that this sort of behavior was normal from a parent. “My Papa’s Waltz” highlights the ways a young person sees a parent who is stern and somewhat abusive. When children are young they are oftentimes shaped by their circumstances, and it seems perfectly logical to believe that the persona of this poem had no idea until he was much older, just how negative of an impact his father had on him. The alcoholic, abusive, and confusing situations in the poem should lead one to believe that the relationship between father and son in the poem is problematic, however, there is still love in the relationship, which just makes
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