My Papa's Waltz
Controversial Interpretations Of My Papas Waltz By Theodore Roethke
Depending on a person’s personality, background, mindset, etc. , they can see some things in the complete opposite way of another. A prime example of this is the poem by Theodore Roethke titled “My Papas Waltz”. The poem, depending how one can interpret the situation, can be a sweet tale of a child dancing with he or she’s father. It could also be seen as a child being abused by their father.
The poem takes us on a journey of a kid “waltzing” with his dad around the house, while his mother observes the situation upset. With that being said, there is textual evidence that concluded this to be a fun and happy story of a child having a great time with his dad. Roethke uses the first line to conclude that the small child is a young boy who has a drunk dad but as the poem continues we learn that he is not a violent drunk. The reader can conclude he is young later on in the story. He is having a great time with his kid making memories in the house. Some people associate the term “drunk” as a bad thing. But, being drunk does not automatically mean one is the kind of drunk who comes home to throw around their kid. Many people can be drunk and still understand right from wrong. In the last lines of the first stanza the reader can get an insight as to what is occurring. The narrator recalls “I hung on like death / such waltzing was not easy”. Every kid has, at one point or another, stood on their dad’s shoes and held tight to his shirt as he dances them around. The boy in the poem was just trying to not fall off his drunken dads clumsy waltzing steps.
Another clue is in the title. If one was being beaten and abused constantly, they would not call their dad “papa. ” They would be called father, or another plain and unsentimental words. “Papa” is a loving word similar to dad, daddy, or pops, used primarily by kids who adore their dad. “Father” is bland and generic word. People who are abused and do not associate themselves with their dad often recall that the man is their father, not their dad. Using the sentimental words shows love and understanding to him. In the middle two stanzas, the reader is taken deeper into the situation at hand. As they dance around clumsily, they are wreaking havoc on the kitchen and running into shelves. “My mother’s countenance / could not unfrown itself” is a line that explains that the mother was upset, but not saying anything back to them. Countenance is a term used to describe facial expression. She was clearly unhappy about her kitchen being ruined and being busted, but she couldn’t stop the fun her boys were having. In the next middle stanza, things start to get even more confusing. The narrator states, “The hand that held my wrist / Was battered on one knuckle / At every step you missed / My right ear scraped a buckle”. The reader can take this in two ways, seeing how they interpreted the rest of the poem. This is how many people decide that the story is dark and abusive.
Many jobs require some blood sweat and tears. Anyone who knows someone working outdoors in some type of labor job will know they do not have the most pristine and pretty hands around. They get scrapped, cut up and battered in filth. His father simply has not had the chance to get cleaned up after a long day at work and is spending time with family. This is also where the reader sees that the boy is young. Standing on his dad’s feet and still only being waist height (ears being by the belt) would mean he is only a few years old. Since it has already been concluded that most kids ride on their dad’s shoes when dancing around, the reader can see that in the drunken state of the dad, its making him hard to balance himself plus the swaying weight if this child. Every time he stumbles, the boy barely misses his dad’s belt while swaying to counteract the balance of his dad. The dad was not trying to hit him with the belt, he never even took it off his waist. The last stanza the reader can come to the conclusion that it is not a terrifying story. The boy ends the poem by saying his dad “…beat time on my head”. His papa kept on tempo to the music by tapping the beat on his son’s head as they danced. In his drunken state he could still clumsily dance and keep beat. Then at the end of the tale, they danced off to the boy’s room, so he could put him to sleep.
The end of the poem, Roethke makes it clear that the boy is not scared of his dad. He in fact loves his papa and cherishes the time they have together. When the author mentions that that he is waltzed of to hos room to sleep for the night, it should be a big indicator that this is a happy story. Even if it was an abuse story, the dad would not walk his kid to his room to put him to bed after beating him. Putting your kid to sleep is a sign of care and compassion. The dad loves his boy, even when he is drunk.
Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papas Waltz” is a confusing tale about a boy’s night with his dad. It many ways, the poem could have been a dark and abusive tale or a light and happy and one. But, when really studying and understanding the story closely, the reader can tell that this is clearly not a story of an abusive relationship. There is textual evidence that declare this to be a happy and joyful story. Starting all the way from the title, to the last line, the reader can see this is a fun night between a boy and his papa.
The Narrator in the Poem My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke
Response Paper to “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke
“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke is a poem that tells a story of a young boy who looks up to his father despite his father’s actions and character. This is a common situation in society, as young boys are raised with a father as the head of the household and they grow up aspiring to be just like their father. The narrator of “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke is a young boy blindly admiring his father despite the horrific actions he performs.
Roethke never blatantly introduces the reader to the narrator, but he invokes the image of a small boy by introducing the poem with, “The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy;” (1-2). While the word “could” in the above quote prevents proving that the narrator is a small boy, Roethke’s ambiguous hint to the narrator allows more understanding of the character. Obviously, from this line, the narrator does not identify himself as a small boy; but then again, what small boy does? Most small children, boys in particular, are trained by society to be big and strong as soon as you can. Therefore, being a small boy is degrading and insulting. As the narrator looks up to his father, his separates himself from his own identity in an effort to adopt the identity of his father.
Throughout the poem, the language of the narrator shows that he is not fully aware of the exact situation that is occurring. The entire metaphor to the waltz exemplifies this perfectly. While his father is drunk and destroying everything in his path, the narrator explains the odd situation with his understanding of a waltz. He hangs on to his father in order to help his mind accept this fantasy. He views all the aspects of the situation, the pans falling, the bruises and the cut, as part of the waltz. This shows how innocent the narrator is and how much he is willing to look over in order to see his father as the man he wants him to be.
Overall, the poem develops a melancholy tone as the narrator’s longing for his father is so sweet, yet desperately sad. The poem takes a situation that is so often seen in a negative light and puts it through a hopeful child’s perspective. This allows the situation to be understood completely differently than it normally is. It adds a whole new layer of despair as the little boy desperately hopes for his father to merely be waltzing. Through the end, the boy refuses to accept reality and continues to blindly admire his father as he is “still clinging to your shirt.”
“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke; a happy or traumatic memory
In “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, the interpretation of the poem depends on the readers perspective. It is a great poem that can mean many different things to many different people. Some people think that this poem is one of a happy exchange between a father and son. Other people believe that this poem has a hidden message of parental abuse. The imagery and language, the symbols and tone in the poem gave me the impression of the love between the father and son, not of an abusive relationship. To me I think it was just a boy who just wanted to spend time with his dad before he has to go to bed. The boy probably does not get to spend time with his dad that much.
Firstly, the poetic tone is a perfect reflection of emotion that the poet feels towards his father. Generally, readers think the tone is either playful or annoyed. The poem consists of many sides of the tone. In life, growing up consists of realizing how childhood experiences made impressions on us as adults. Since, this is written in the role of an adult, mature thoughts and feelings are displayed rather than childish ones.
Secondly, the most open poetic form in “My Papa’s Waltz” is of sound: rhyme and rhythm, which can be misleading elements. Roethke created the pleasant rhythm which makes the poem sound short and sweet. The rhyme further trances the reader into believing that the tone of the poem is light and playful. However, this rhyme and rhythm is deceiving. In the poem there is something not quite sound with pleasant memory in the harsh sounds. The rhyming scheme utilizes repetition in which the rhyming words are not completely identical such as “dizzy” and “easy” (Roethke 2,4). These slight limitations reflect the speaker’s feelings towards his father. Although he has unconditional love for his father, that love cannot mask those limitations.
Thirdly, the poetic language in “My Papa’s Waltz” is so precise, that it can actually make for more debate on the meaning of the poem. Basically, it has controversial interpretations because words alone have different meanings. Starting with the title, “My Papa’s Waltz” discloses what the poem is about. The waltz means an easiness and grace, and the word Papa is used which connotes an extreme closeness and admiration. Like the popular phrase goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” one should not judge this poem by its title. Although the title conveys lightness, the content draws darkness and perversion.
Another form of poetic language is metaphor which can be a useful tool in revealing the emotion in this poem, especially since it is difficult to detect. The only symbol, a type of metaphor, in the poem suggests the most haunting notion with: “I hung on like death” (3). This introduces the reader to a darker thought, further confirming that there is an emotional tone. In the scope of things, “My Papa’s Waltz” is an image for the father-son relationship in the poem. The waltz represents the dance between love and resentment between the father and son.
In short, one’s personal experiences with his or her father or father figures may influence them to interpret “My Papa’s Waltz” to be strictly a happy or traumatic memory. Just like many relationships, people may only see the good on the outside, however, the relationship may be broken on the inside. Each literary element helps to build the illusion that the memory is in admiration of the father, but seeing through that illusion allows the reader to see the abuse the speaker endured in his childhood.
The Unconditional Love Between a Father and Son in the Poem My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke
High upon a pedestal sits a rough and ragged man. With calloused hands and skin of leather, to most he is nothing more than an ordinary laborer, but to the small eyes tracking his every move he is a king. His dirty ball cap is a crown, his stained clothes are made of the finest material and encrusted with jewels, his worn out shoes are the finest of boots. In the eyes of that child, his father is nothing less than magnificent and incapable of any wrong. While words cannot properly define the unconditional love that a child has for his father, the tone and imagery that Theodore Roethke uses in his poem, “My Papa’s Waltz” has a beautiful way of describing it.
Roethke first uses imagery in order to draw the reader in and enable them to envision the scene that is painted before them. By initially mentioning the whiskey on his Papa’s breath, Roethke begins to paint a picture of his father as being rough around the edges. He then introduces himself as a “small child” hanging on to his Papa like he was never going to let go while they dance throughout the family’s home. The initial reaction of reader based off of the imagery is a negative one and it isn’t until the tone is set that the reader can see the true theme of the Roethke’s words. While image of the mother having a “countenance” that “could not unfrown itself” and all of the steps which his father is missing continue to support the negative connotations, the fact that the boy clings to his father throughout the waltz and never lets go sets the tone as a very positive one. Regardless of being scraped by a buckle when his father stumbles or having “time beat on [his] head”, the boy remains “clinging” to his Papa’s shirt. The mother probably sees the father as being drunk and unnecessarily rough housing with the child. However, to the father and son lost in the waltz, it is a moment where the unconditional love between the two shines through the outward situation.
The bond between a father and child is unconditional. It does not matter what the pair looks like or where they are, the fact that they will always be there for each other regardless of the circumstance is enough to keep the love alive and strong. Roethke uses imagery to set the tone in “My Papa’s Waltz” and then allows for both elements together to create the theme that shows the unwavering and unconditional love between a Papa and his son.
Literary Analysis Of My Papa’s Waltz By Theodore Roethke
Judith Lewis Herman, an American psychiatrist, said “Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom.” This quote seems to ring-true in “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke. My Papa’s Waltz is one of Theodore Roethke’s most widely known poems. Poetry is oral or literary works that are in condensed or compressed form to convey emotion or ideas. Poems are created to express the thoughts and emotions of the writer. It frequently relies on their effect on imagery, word association, and the musical qualities of the language used. Readers are uncertain about the theme of Theodore Roethke’s ‘My Papa’s Waltz’. Some believe that the poem is a memory of a happy exchange between a father and son, while others believe it has darker undertones. The more plausible explanation is that it contains a secret theme of abuse. Child abuse could be considered the theme because of the hints of alcoholism, a mothers’ distaste for what is occurring, and damage to the kitchen and the child. Careful analysis of the keywords and stanzas back up the theory of child abuse caused by a destructive and intoxicated father. The setting, imagery, and word selection allows the reader to understand the cruelty the little boy endures after his father returns from work.
My Papa’s Waltz is a lyric poem. Theodore Roethke wrote this poem in 1942. The poem is about an exchange between a father and son in a kitchen. The entire story is told from the viewpoint of the writer remembering a moment from his childhood. The story of the alcoholic father dancing with his child around the room, holding him roughly and beating time on his head, might be interpreted in a positive and negative way. A rough and hard-working man, that loves his son and wants to have fun being with him, or this is a story of a drunkard neglecting and abusing his child. The poem follows an alternate rhyme scheme with the occasional slant written in the poem. The meter is an iambic trimeter, a weak syllable followed by strong syllable with three stressed syllables per line to make the poem very easy. There are three stressed syllables in a line resembling an actual waltz, which has three beats. The poem contains four stanzas containing quatrains. The poem’s setting is in the kitchen, the life of the house, especially in 1942. “But I hung on like death” is an example of a simile in the poem. Some lines give us background information as well. Theodore Roethke’s father owned a greenhouse, which explains in line 10 why his hand is cakes in dirt.
One reason why “My Papa’s Waltz” theme is abuse is because the father is an alcoholic. At the beginning of the poem, we immediately see hints of alcoholism. “The whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy” indicates that the father was drinking heavily. The father was drinking so much that his breath was causing his son to feel some of the effects of alcohol. As soon as the father comes home from work you can smell the alcohol on his breath. Symptoms of alcohol abuse include impulsivity, poor self-control, and abnormal brain responses to activating stimuli. Many people become argumentative when they drink and some combative. Alcoholism can cause the drinker to act out. In the poem, the father is taking his anger out on his son. The mother is helpless and can only muster up a frown in fear she will be next. Alcoholism isn’t just a user problem, alcoholism affects others as well. The victims of alcoholism are a multitude of people: spouse, children, other relatives, bosses, fellow workers, pedestrians, drivers, police, judges, physicians who get called late at night, taxpayers who often pick up the bill for treatment, and other innocent and not so innocent people who cross the alcoholic’s path. In the poem, we see three characters: a child, a father, and a mother. However, it is the mother’s reaction that truly sets the theme as sinister. Many might think a smile would be more appropriate for a ‘happy’ occasion. If the poem was about a happy father and son waltzing, the mother would not be frowning. “My mother’s countenance / Could not unfrown itself.” clearly shows the reader that the mom is not okay with what is going on. This only solidifies that this is not a happy memory. In the second stanza, the writer gives the reader insight of how the father was knocking over pans and shelves. Waltzing does not involve repeated destruction of the house. The mother is in a seemingly helpless state of mind as the father continues to destroy the house. It is very clear that she is upset, as her husband carries on his destructive behavior. Her frown proves that she is not only saddened by his actions but is powerless to stop him. The mother is possibly in denial, a defense mechanism. Someone who is dependent frightened and themselves the victim of abuse, can remain silent and not even see or hear the abuse in order to maintain the desperately needed relationship with the abuser. This supports the abuse aspect because she would not be frowning if it was a happy exchange between father and son.
Although he has unconditional love for his father, that love cannot mask those imperfections. His father was a drunkard and perhaps because Roethke leads with this in the poem, the drunkenness is the reason for the abuse. Lines 1 and 2 establish that Papa is drunk, which is a situation that can lead to violence. Line 3 is an example of a simile, because the boy hung on ‘like’ death. The son hangs on like death because he fears what his father’s actions will do to him. Lines 5 and 6 explain that the abuse was so awful, that pots and pans were falling off the shelves. The next two lines show the mothers’ disapproval as well. The father’s hand is battered from hitting something. His bruised knuckle could be from the father hitting the child or punching a cabinet or pan in the kitchen. ‘Battered’ is an intense word to use for a hurt hand and implies some lurking violence. The belt also reminds us of how belts have often been used to punish children. The child cannot get away from the father and is getting hit with his father’s belt. ‘Beat’ fits with the word ‘battered’, which was used to describe the father’s knuckles. Throughout this poem, subtle word choices create an undercurrent of violence. Fighting is also known as dancing, but this waltz took a dark turn.
In conclusion, ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ is not a poem about a happy encounter between father and son, but a poem about the sinister things that goes on in his home. Theodore Roethke writes about a boy who gets abused when his father comes home but changes the tone of the poem into a happy memory of a ‘waltz’. Evidence in the poem such as lines 9 and 10 show the reader two sides for a story that is a misdirect for what is really going on. ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ story of an alcoholic father abusing his child day by day. The mother is powerless and cannot stop her husband’s actions in fear of her safety. In the poem, we see clear signs of alcoholism, child abuse, and a helpless mother. In the future, society should look for these signs, so that the incident in this poem will not happen to others.
Depiction Of Father And Child Relationships In My Papa’s Waltz And Those Winter Nights
Family relationships are meaningful and complicated at the same time. Every relationship is different. One special relationship is between a father and his child. Poetry is an excellent way to portrait this relationship. Both Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Nights” and Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” describe different but loving father and child relationships. In Roethke’s poem the relationship the speaker has with his father is a complicated one. The speaker of Roethke’s poem is revealed to be a small boy. Before going to bed the father is dancing the waltz with the little boy. The waltz could be a metaphor describing his relationship with his father. The speaker describes the waltz as “Such waltzing was not easy”, which could mean that their relationship was not always easy. The speaker goes on and describes how the father is messing up and the boy is getting hurt “At every step you missed / My right ear scraped a buckle”. This could also be another metaphor for the father’s mistakes could hurt his son. Certain word choice makes it seem that there could also be some type of violence in the relationship. The speaker describes the father’s hands “The hand that held my wrist / Was battered on one knuckle”. The word “battered” is a strong word to describe his hands. The speaker also mentions, “You beat time on my head” which again the word “beat” is strong word to describe keeping time. The poem’s focus is almost entirely on the waltz. The poem is written in iambic trimeter and a waltz has three beats as well. By transforming the poem into a waltz helps show the importance of the waltz itself. Even though the father’s relationship with his son is complicated, the son still loves and admires his father. Even though the waltz is rough the son clings to his father “Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt”. The child ignores all the discomfort he feels to keep dancing with his father.
In Hayden’s poem the speaker’s relationship with the father was thoughtful one. The speaker describes all the responsibilities he would do for him. The father would get up start fires and wait for it to warm up before calling his family. He would also polish his children shoes “who had driven out the cold / and polished my good shoes as well”. The speaker speaks in remorse “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices”. Hayden’s poem is a basic but common sonnet. The poem is about a different type of love. It is about the love parents have for their children and the love their children have for them. Just like the reader could not understand his father’s love until the end. The reader figures out the type of sonnet the poem is until the end.
Both poem are reflecting on a childhood memory but each of them have a different focus. In Roethke’s poem the speaker focuses more on how his father treated him and how he has hurt him, “At every step you missed / My right ear scraped a buckle”. The reader can not be sure how the speaker feels about his father when he is all grown up. The reader remembers his father as being slightly unpredictable. In Hayden’s poem the speaker focuses more on the father and how the speaker mistreated him. The reader also knows that the speaker remembers his father with respect and remorse. The speaker regrets not being able to see that his father showed his love for him by taking care of him “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices”. Both in “Those Winter Sundays” and in “My Papa’s Waltz” describe a different type of father and child relationship. Also both of these poems are about love and family. Each poem uses differently techniques to describe the loving father and child relationship. One poem describes a more thoughtful relationship while the other one is more complicated. In both poems readers can relate and see themselves in the poems.
Comparative Analysis Of My Papa’s Waltz And Fiesta 1980
Parents are among the most important individuals in the lives of young children. From birth, children are learning and depending on mothers and fathers, to protect and care about them. Turning into a parent is generally a welcomed event, however now and again, parents’ lives are laden with issues and uncertainty in regards to their capacity to guarantee their child’s prosperity. Moreover, some parents aren’t made for parenting and in turn, mistreat the child. ‘Fiesta 1980’ by Junot Diaz and ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ by Theodore Roethke are comparative since they both talk about the oppressive connection between a dad and a child. On the other hand, the works contrast on the grounds that in ‘Fiesta 1980’, the dad’s activities make a feeling of detest in the child towards the dad, while in ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ the child still holds some adoration for his dad despite the maltreatment. The story ‘Fiesta 1980’ by Junot Diaz is the story of a man who is having an unsanctioned romance and hauls his children into it. Yunior, the youngest child, seems to be the most influenced by this. He has seen his dad in different events with a Puerto Rican woman and is faced with the conflict of whether to tell his mom about it or remain quiet. He doesn’t want to see his father angry and watch his family fall apart, however, he also doesn’t like what his mom is being put through. His dad is abusing him mentally by placing him in such a powerless circumstance.
The poem ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ by Theodore Roethke is about a drunk father and a son who every night dance to bed. The speaker of this poem is a man recalling his adolescence through the means of a waltz. The waltz in the poem is causing pain to the child, as mentioned in the poem, “my right ear scraped a buckle” (Roethke, line 12). They are dancing roughly due to his father’s intoxication and clumsiness. The son realizes all that is going on but still, he continues has to cling to his father’s shirt, symbolizing a sign hope he has in his father. Furthermore, ‘Fiesta 1980’ and ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ are similar in the relationships between a father and a son. The two works are revolved around traumatizing and abusive events influencing the kids. In ‘Fiesta 1980’ the youngest child Yunior is mentally manhandled by his dad when he is taken to the place of the mistress and forced to sit outside and wait for his dad to complete his filthy activities. As referenced in the story, “The two of them went upstairs and I was too scared of what was happening to poke around. I just sat there ashamed, expecting something big and fiery crash down on our heads” (Diaz). The father is selfish and doesn’t care much for his family. The father emotionally blackmails Yunior. Yunior to not hurt his mom and make his dad angry stays quiet. The child in “My Papa’s waltz is also being abused. When the father and son waltz the boy gets affected by the whiskey on his father’s breath, “The whiskey on your breath/could make a small boy dizzy” (Roethke lines 1-2). Not only is he getting dizzy, but also, later on, he is getting hit with his father’s belt which scrapes his ear.
However, the two stories are different in the results. In ‘Fiesta 1980’ the child winds up having practically zero love for his dad. The dad is a cheater and Yunior can’t stand it. Each time Yunior get in the van he feels like hurling, due to the repugnance he has towards his dad. He can’t hold it in any longer as referenced in the story, ‘Finally I said, Mami, and they both looked back, already knowing what was happening’ (Diaz). The two parents realized what was going to leave Yunior’s mouth. In contrast, the child from ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ still has an affection for his dad even after all the maltreatment. As referenced in the poem, ‘then waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt’ (Roethke 15-16). In spite of all he was put through, he stayed holding his dad until the end. Regardless of how unpleasant the dance was or the number of scratches he got he never lost his affection for him. The story “Fiesta 1980” by Junot Diaz associates with the subject of parent-child relationship since this sort of issue happens regularly today. Many children are set between picking which parent to agree with because the other has done the wrong thing, for example, taking part in extramarital entanglements as Yunior’s father does all through the story. Taking everything into account, the coming of age “Fiesta 1980” and ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ show a parent-child relationship where kids are abused and put in predicaments. This causes clashes in both the child’ emotional well-being and their association with their parents.
Analytic Essay On “my Papa’s Waltz” By Theodore Roethke And “my Winter Sundays” By Hayden Robert
Maintaining a family can be difficult. In many instances, fathers have to work countless hours to keep their family afloat. Therefore, they rarely have time to interact and bond with their families which creates problems among them forming a happy relationship with their children. The love fathers give toward their children can be taken for granted. The poems “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “My Winter Sundays” by Hayden Robert illustrate this experience in two different scenarios. The poet in “My Papa’s Waltz” describes the experience through recalling the times he would rough-house with his dad. While the poet in “My Winter Sundays” describes the experience in a more sad and appreciative manner as the poet realizes how much his father did for him.
The fathers in both poems are described similarly as both poems are about the troubles of a working dad. Theodore Roethke in “My Papa’s Waltz” tells a story of a child and his memories that happened late at night with his father (possibly his own childhood). His memories seem to be about his father. His father seems to be an alcoholic as he is often drunk as he arrives home late at night stinking of alcohol. Once his father is home, he waits to waltz (dance) with him. The poem then goes on to say they danced until pans in kitchen slid off the kitchen shelf. The poem also describes the father to have battered knuckles and rough palms which suggests that he works hard and possibly a lot. Finally, the father waltzed him to sleep in bed. In “Those Winter Sundays”, Hayden Robert also tells a story of a child and his memories with his dad (also possibly his own childhood). His memories describe the times his father would wake-up every morning to get dressed for work in the cold darkness and before leaving he would prepare the family for the morning. He prepared the family by gathering firewood and keeping the house warm and then waking the family up. Although he did not receive any thanks, he did it anyway. Overall, the fathers in both poems are hard-working men trying to support their families and rarely have time to bond with their children.
In both poems, the poets describe a flashback of theirs with much respect and love for their dads. The title “My Papa Waltz” infers that the poet respected and loved his father. When children call their dad “Papa”, it shows that they are close and that they admire and respect their father because “Papa” is a friendly word that is more personal over saying “dad” or “father”. Also, the word “waltz” implies a joyful and formal dance. As a result, the title of Roethke’s poem and the way he describes his father at times in the poem is generally positive. Another illustration of the child’s respect and affection for his father is shown by the things he overlooks and ignores to go on with dancing with his dad. For instance, the child ignores the discomfort in his ear from scraping against the buckle of his belt. Also, in the poem, it states “the whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy; / But I hung on like death”. Roethke doesn’t seem to fully approve everything his father does to or for him, however, he still loves him despite his drunkenness and sometimes aggressive behavior. In Hayden’s poem, he remembers his dad as selfless and self-sacrificing as he says, “Sundays too my father got up early” which means he even worked on Sundays. Also, the child does not have any negative remarks about his dad outside of not being close to him. He remembers his father with respect and love, but also with some remorse as he says, “speaking indifferently to him”. Him speaking indifferently with his dad means he is not interested in his dad and does not appreciate him. However, the child later says, “What did I know, What did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices” which shows that he deeply regretted not giving enough thanks and appreciation for what his dad did for him. Ultimately, both children in the poems loved their father deeply despite their hardships and uneasy relationship.
Even though Theodore and Hayden had different struggles bonding with their fathers as their fathers worked countlessly to support them, they both showed respect and love for their fathers. This respect and love may not have been a huge concern to them when they were children, but now, as they mature and grow older, they start to understand why their fathers acted the way they did as they reflect upon themselves through their poems.
- Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” 1966.
- Roethke, Theodore. “My Pap’s Waltz.” 1942.
Literary Analysis Of The Poem My Papa’s Waltz By Theodore Roethke
Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” is told from a perspective of a young child who has to experience the drunken actions of his father. This poem touches on the issue of child abuse as the poem goes on to describe the acts of violence from a father towards his child. The poem does not make the story seem more pleasant as it states the true events that occurred without sugarcoating any of the information. This poem gives insight into the life that this child has to live through on a constant basis and the terrible effects that alcohol can cause to a family with an alcoholic parent.
The first stanza of the poem introduces the context of the events happening later on in the story. Throughout the poem, the author uses end rhyme to emphasize the events taking place. In the first stanza for example, the author rhymes “breath” with “death”. The speaker says “But I hung on like death:” to express how he feels breathing in the toxic smell of his father’s alcoholic breath and he uses a simile to stress the fact that it’s so hard to breathe with the smell of whiskey invading his senses. The author uses this figurative language to compare the speaker’s situation to a sort of dance where there is a constant movement of back and forth for someone to gain control to take the lead in the dance. The characters are not actually dancing but they are in a sort of struggle where the boy is trying to cling onto his father while the father is walking around and it is like they are “waltzing”.
The second stanza of this poem describes the events occurring in a way that makes the reader have a better understanding. “We romped until the pans / Slid from the kitchen shelf;” (lines 5-6) creates a vivid image of a father and his son stumbling around in the kitchen as the father beats his son so harshly that even the pans on the kitchen shelf are falling down. This imagery helps lead the reader to add their own details into the picture, such as blood and bruises possibly forming as the father hits his son and the sounds of the pans crashing into the ground. The imagery is further expanded as the author finally mentions the mother who seems to have been present inferring from “My mother’s countenance / Could not unfrown itself.” The reader is now able to imagine the mother standing off to the side unhappy and helpless in doing anything as she watches her husband beat their son. In this stanza, the speaker uses end rhyme with the words “shelf” and “itself” to once again put more emphasis into the story.
The third stanza opens up with a more detailed insight into the specifics of what exactly the drunk father was doing to his son. “The hand that held my wrist / Was battered on one knuckle;” (lines 9-10) indicates that while one of the father’s hand was keeping the boy still, the other one was beating him until his knuckles started to bruise. The end rhyme included in this stanza were between the words “knuckle” and “buckle” to highlight the actions taking place as the speaker was beaten by his father’s knuckles and kept being dragged against his father’s belt buckle as he clung onto him.
As mentioned in the last stanza, “Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt” (lines 15-16) it is shown how once the father was done beating his son, he just put him to bed without a second thought. The son was clinging onto his father’s shirt as if still seeking his affection even though his father had beaten him horribly. The author manages to convey a deep sadness through his tone and use of end rhyme to emphasize the terrible events that the boy had to endure. End rhyme helped to really emphasize the important parts of the story and the way that the poem was written showed a strong sense of disconnectedness and sadness.
Theme Of Abuse In My Papa’s Waltz By Theodore Roethke
There is a variety of abuse that takes place around the world, such as mental, physical, and verbal abuse. However, between 960,000 and 3,000,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported each year, while many other incidents go unreported. It’s estimated that more than ten million people experience domestic violence in the U.S each year. In Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”, the author tries to embellish the horrid experience of abusing his son into a joyful and loving session of a waltz. Waltz is a dance involving interaction, rhythm, and interdependence between two people, thus symbolizing a relationship between the father and the son. However, in reality, the waltz actually symbolizes a beating, the word choice throughout the poem often indicates the beating that takes place. The poem is led by the dancing around the house with his son, while the beating takes place. In Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” the author uses the form of “dance” to depict an abusive relationship towards his son.
The poem states “At every step you missed, my right ear scraped a buckle”, which can be interpreted as an innocent dance between a child and his drunk father. However, this stanza can actually be understood that the “dance” isn’t all fun and games for the boy, as he’s getting pretty scratched up. The boy is scared of upsetting his father, which is why he still insists on continuing to dance with his tipsy father despite his father constantly hurting him. In the early 20th century, it was common for a father to discipline his kids by beating them with a belt. Punishment like that isn’t explicitly shown in this poem, but the same belt could’ve been used to discipline the boy as well.
The Battered Children Syndrome was a big issue during the 1940s-1950s, in which many children suffered from a set of symptoms, injuries, and signs of mistreatment seen on severely or repeatedly abused children. During this time period, it was common for children to get abused by their fathers or male relatives due to the massive amount of power men held in their homes and society. Battered children’ or ‘non-accidental injury’ had been identified by pediatricians from the 1950s. It became a major policy issue of the 1960s and 70s, though more associated with the actions of mothers than fathers or other male relatives. So, child abuse was a massive issue during the 1940s-1950s, which explains how the father’s behavior might be a norm for the child and even the mother. In the poem, it indicates how the mother/wife was not happy, due to the mess her husband was making in the kitchen but kept silent out of fear and submission.
In the third stanza, the speaker illustrates how his father manhandles him throughout the dance. “The hand that held my wrists/was battered on one knuckle”, these lines show the roughness and severeness of his father’s grip on his wrist instead of a steady and rhythmic posture that customary partners should. The father’s battered knuckle symbolizes the effect of the beating that takes place and the aggression that Roethke’s father has towards the child. The interpretation in stanza four also allows us to sense the indication of the beating,” You beat time on my head/with a palm caked hard by dirt “, in which we see more of the father’s roughness during this “waltz”. The word “beat” has a negative connotation, which refers to the beating of the child because you can “keep” time more than you can beat to it, but “ beat” has a more pessimistic undertone. Throughout the poem, Roethke’s leaves us to interpret the poem as a memory of his terrible childhood.
The poem follows a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, which means that it follows a classic five-beat pattern of rhythm. The poem has such an upbeat and joyful beat that it disguises the horrid truth. The horrid truth of a little innocent boy who takes a look back at a domestic part of his childhood where his drunkard of a father consistently abuses him. The speaker uses words and phrases like “romped” and “ I hung on like death” that secretly indicate the domestic violence and sense of fear that the child partakes in throughout the poem. For example, when the speaker states “Such waltzing was not easy”, it specifies how the roughness of the “waltz” was so violent that the pots and pans begin to fall to the floor in the kitchen. The series of imagery used to communicate the themes and the overall context of the play was very beneficial. Many of the images conveyed theme of power, violence, and dominance.