My Papa's Waltz

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The lines “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke can be paraphrased for better understanding and interpreting the author’s meaning for the poem. For the most part the lines in the poem are not holding mixed sentence structure. The speaker in the poem is a young boy who is describing a moment he had with his father after his father had been drinking, “the whiskey on your breath” (line 1). I also feel line 4, “such waltzing was not easy,” indicates drinking and papa being clumsy or intoxicated, not being able to keep his balance or keep time of the dance steps. The tone throughout the poem shows me a boy having a fun moment with his father. The lines “we romped until the pans slid form the kitchen shelf”, “hanging on like death”, or “still clinging to your shirt.” All indicate the boy did not want to leave the papa. If he was scared or hurting he would attempt to get away but line 9, “the hand that held my wrist” shows the boy may not been able to get away even if he wanted to or again the instability of papa’s drinking and the safety of the child to have a better grip on the little boy. The words whisky and waltzing are connotative words as I read the poem. The word whiskey automatically brings up thought of drinking while the word waltzing brings up meaning of dancing. Both instances are what the small boy remembers about his papa. The memory of the whiskey on papa’s breath may not be a good memory or it may be because of the time waltzing or romping he got to do with his papa. Countenance was a word I did not know and had to look up for the meaning, “my mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself” (lines (7-8) made more sense when I replaced the word countenance with facial expression. The mother was not happy the two were romping through the house or she may not be happy for others reasons such as, the papa smelling of whiskey or the time of night it was.

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