My Papa'S Waltz

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“My Papa’s Waltz” – Theodore Roethke Poems can have many different meanings and interpretations. This poem, about a father and a son, is no different. When first reading this poem, many people’s initial thoughts would be negative because it can be interpreted as an abusive relationship. With a second look though, this is not the case at all. “My Papa’s Waltz” is an endearing poem about a young boy that longs for the undivided attention of his working father. The first quatrain sets the tone for the rest of the poem and needs little interpretation. It explains how the father is intoxicated, but the little boy disregards it and clings to his father anyway. The little boy wanted to be with his father and this was the only way it was going to happen. So he seizes the opportunity and goes with it, however uncomfortable the situation is for him. The fact that the author uses the word your, instead of his, to symbolize the father, also points to the fact that it’s not a poem telling about abuse but rather just the relationship between the two because using your rather than his is much more personal. It may also be a story that the author can relate to rather than just a random father and son. Next, it tells of how they danced a joyous dance that clearly made a mess that the mother was very upset with. The line telling of the mother’s disdain is helpful in interpretation. If this were a poem of abuse, the mother would not have been mad; she would have been scared because the actions to come would not have been acceptable. She would have been trying to stop them rather than simply frowning upon the two. The second verse gives the feeling of family. The third quatrain begins to explain that the father is a working father. The hand that held his wrist was battered on one knuckle. Many might think that the battered knuckle is from hitting the boy, but it’s most

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