Tone Of My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

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Diction has a strong affect on how readers interpret a passage. This is proven through Theodore Roethke’s poem, “My Papa’s Waltz”. The poem presents a boy roughhousing with his father. However, some critics see the roughhousing taking place as abusive, due to the negative word choice displayed throughout the poem. The author set a positive and negative tone throughout the poem, representing the respect and fear he had for his father. The overall situation unfolding between the boy and his father is positive roughhousing with no terms of abuse. When covering the topic of abuse in the poem, Dr. O'Connor said, “According to Karl Malkoff, Roethke had a deep, almost religious respect for his father.” Roethke and his father had a strong bond that was strengthened through religion. The father was a strong figure, but was a loving idol for Roethke. They were playful with each other and the poem highlights one…show more content…
This displays the fear that the author had for his father. When reflecting over the poem, John J. Mckenna stated, “The author replaced the rather benign ‘kept’ with ‘beat’ thus making the situation more ominous, more negative” Roethke’s father worked manual labor and had a strong physique. This means that he might’ve been too rough with his son at times, but not intentionally to hurt him. That is one of the reasons Roethke feared his father slightly. Another change Roethke made to the poem was the gender of the child. In the first draft of the poem, Roethke had written, “Could make a small girl dizzy.” When McKenna noticed this changed he said, “By substituting ‘boy’ for ‘girl’ then, Roethke could keep the dual tone of this dance: a little rough and scary and a little dear and loving.” This poem was written in 1941, meaning that the American Society at the time would find the roughhousing much more appropriate with a son, rather than a
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