Theodore Roethke "My Papa's Waltz"

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Theodore Roethke “My Papa’s Waltz” Formal Argument In “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke the speaker, a young boy, takes us through a dance with his father. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia felt that the boy’s experience was a fun, playful one however, my interpretation of this poem differed. The speaker uses details in this poem that tell the story of a fun yet frightening dance with his father. The speaker starts by letting us know that the father is drunk. He describes to us how the smell of whiskey on his father’s breath “Could make a small boy dizzy” (2). The speaker doesn’t paint the picture of a mean, intimidating father, but that of a playful father who is drunk. The father is not painted as what one would consider a typical, loving father. He is described as drunk and dirty with battered knuckles; “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (14), “Was battered on one knuckle” (10). The speaker uses playful words to help us understand that the boy has fun dancing with his father. He also uses the mother to help paint the picture of a father and son who “romped until the pans/Slid from the kitchen shelf” (5-6). This playfulness makes the mother frown but she does not cry or yell which indicates that the father isn’t doing any real harm. The father, although he is drunk, is not angry or mean, he is just trying to be playful. It is with this playfulness, that he causes the boy pain. While the boy likes to dance with his father, the speaker also indicates to us that the experience is not a pleasant one. The speaker paints the picture of a drunk, stumbling father who, without meaning to, hurts the boy; “At every step you missed/My right ear scraped a buckle” (11-12). The tone of the poem indicates that the boy is yearning for a dance without any missed steps. We see this image of a father and son romping, which in most cases would create a fun, happy

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