My Papa's Waltz

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Father and Son Waltz What is the difference between love and abuse? While reading “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke it could easily be seen how this poem can be portrayed as abusive opposed to loving. The words and tone of this poem seems hurtful and strong. For example, the son is described to hanging to his father “like death” (Roethke 3). Those words sound really negative, when in reality the son is holding on to his father, while dancing, so he would not fall to the ground. An important factor in “My Papa’s Waltz” is the father coming home wreaking of whiskey. So a person automatically would think the father went on a drunken rant. "My Papa's Waltz" is a poem presented in a form that uses specific images and language to present a happy memory that a boy has of his father, even in a situation where his father was drunk. Words such as romped and waltzing, express the enthusiasm of the event and the boy's response to it. Simultaneously, the poem starts with the author stating that his father is very drunk by mentioning "The whiskey on your breath/ Could make a small boy dizzy" (Roethke 1). In addition, a waltz is a type of dance in which someone must lead and the father is the one leading the child. Roethke, sarcastically, describes a scene where the father and son danced until pans fell off the shelf. The boys mother finally enters the poem, with her face frowned, most likely due to the mess they had created. If this were a poem about abuse, normally a mother’s love and willingness to protect her child would have intervened and stopped the abuse. Safely assuming that this is an autobiographical poem and that Roethke is reminiscing about his father, when stating “The hand that held my wrist/ Was battered on one knuckle” (Roethke 10), could be over-read or misinterpreted if the reader is ignorant of Roethke’s relationship with his father. Reothke’s

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