My Papa's Waltz

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“My Papa’s Waltz” “My Papa’s Waltz”, is a simple poem. It has four quatrains of alternating rhyme, recalling an accident from childhood. This poem can seem to be construed as abuse taking place or a happy memory from the childs past. A fond reminiscence of a comical dance between a father and his son. It is also a critique of the father’s coarseness and drunkenness. The author’s relationship seems to have been a complicated one. The father was a demanding parent, who required perfection from his son who idolized him. When his father died of cancer, when Roethke was in high school, the boy was left with unresolved and conflicting emotions about his father (Napierkowski R, Ruby M. 1998). “My Papa’s Waltz” seems in some respects to be an attempt on the author’s part, to come to terms with his feelings. The first two lines of the poem, “The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy” suggests that there was enough alcohol on the father’s breath to intoxicate the child. This observation seems to imply that the father consumed a substantial amount of whiskey, since the smell was very potent that it made the child dizzy (Napierkowski R., Ruby M. 1998). This line seems to establish closeness between the two figures. The poem is a direct address from the son to the father, evoking a feeling of intimacy between them (Napierkowski R., Ruby M. 1998). “But I hung on like death” further implies the closeness of the two. It is a physical closeness, because the child was clinging to his father. One could think that “like death” would imply the child was afraid to let go because he didn’t want to get hurt because his father was intoxicated or one might imply that the child hung on because emotionally attached and therefore was afraid to let go (Napierkowski R., Ruby M. 1998). Lines five and six of the poem reveal the boisterous of the dancing, which

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