What Is The Theme Of Violence In 'My Papa's Waltz'

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In the poem, “My Papa’s Waltz”, Theodore Roethke illustrates the complex relationship between a little boy and his father by juxtaposing images of love and violence through word choices that portray feelings of fear yet affection for his father. Roethke’s shifting tone encompasses distress and a sense admiration that suggests the complexities of violence both physically and emotionally for the undercurrents of his father and son relationship. The poem begins with a series of negative images, each of which are considered violent and undesirable in a family. For example, “The whiskey on your breath” suggests alcoholism, and “Could make a small boy dizzy” emphasizes that a boy is suffering from the effects of the alcoholic parent. This portrays emotional abuse that explores the possibilities of a toxic father-son dynamic. The line “But I hung on like death” then continues to imply that the father’s careless attitude is hurting the little boy internally. These images give insightful pictures to an unhealthy relationship caused by psychological violence. The speaker then adds a more positive image of dancing with, “Such waltzing was not easy” and “We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf,”. Although most associate Waltzing as an enjoyable dance, it is in reality a metaphor that represents the relationship he has with his father. A father-son bond is supped to be pleasurable like the dance, but instead it is a rough experience like the…show more content…
Through this struggle, the little boy demonstrates his fear yet forgiveness towards his dad and allows us to understand his predicaments. Roethke’s strong diction encompasses images of both fear and unconditional love that portray the complexities of violence both physically and emotionally for the intricacies in his relationship with his
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