An Analysis of Theodore Roethke's 'My Papa's Waltz'

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Discussion #1: Part I: "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke appears ambiguous, especially at the first reading. The main reason for this is the type of diction the author uses. Stanza 1 seems innocent enough, for example, where the speaker ends by referring to "waltzing." Although he refers to the dance as "not easy," it can still be that the father indulged a little and started playing with his boy. In the second stanza, the word "romped" further confirms a sense of fun, despite the mother's frowning countenance. The third and fourth stanzas become ambiguous with the use of diction such as "battered" in Stanza 3 and "beat" in Stanza 4. A significant change in these stanzas is also that the speaker addresses his father directly, whereas the first two stanzas told the story in the third person. However, there are certain elements that clarify the intent of the subject matter, not to describe or address a father who was abusive, but rather to describe the realities of life at the time. In Stanza 3, for example, it is important to note that it was the father's knuckle was battered. In Stanza 4, he did not beat the boy himself, but rather kept time on his head with his palm. The palm that was caked by dirt could have been from a day at menial labor or falling on the way from drinking whiskey. The buckle that scraped the child's ear appears to be the result of an accidental misstep rather than intentionally harmful. A final and somewhat conclusive clue to the intention
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