Critical Analysis: My Papa’s Waltz

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Critical Analysis: My Papa’s Waltz
My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke is a uniquely happy poem showing a glimpse of a young boys childhood. The speaker reminisces about his “waltzing” with his father as a child. At the beginning of the poem we get a brief understanding of their waltz because this is not a simple task for the child. As the poem progresses we begin to imagine this is a nightly routine for the small child to help get him to sleep. The Father could be mistaken as a drunk or abusive, Due to lines such as “ The Whiskey on your breath/ Could make a small boy dizzy.” (1-2) But is later affirmed to be the opposite with the young boy telling us “I hung on like death.” (3) Allowing us to know he doesn’t in fact want to let go. This is not in fear for his life which the word “death implies” but it is caused by the young boy wanting to continue and have fun with his father. As each stanza progresses we can further see the unconditional love between Father and Son. The young boy’s feelings and love for his father can be better illustrated by Theodore Roethke’s imagery, when we read more in depth; Roethke shows us a young boy having a joyous time wile trying to avoid being put to bed in My Papa’s Waltz.
We can begin to better understand this relationship by digging deeper into the poem itself and examining each stanza, line and even word. Many moments in this poem lead the reader to believe this is a friendly bedtime waltz. Early in the poem; Roethke writes, “We romped until the pans/ Slid from the kitchen shelf.” (5-6) This shows that the son and father were being charismatic and having a carefree time scurrying about the kitchen. Later in the poem; Roethke writes, “With a palm caked hard by dirt.” (14) showing us its been a productive day of work for the Father and After a long day for both boys this is a time for them to reconnect and enjoy ones company.   The word “romped” is typically depicted as fighting more abruptly, or abusively when this is not the...

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