Analysis Of ' My Papa 's Waltz ' By Theodore Roethke

1258 Words Dec 9th, 2014 6 Pages
Krystal Fail
Laura Cipko
English Comp 112
3 December 2014
Dance With My Father

When introduced to “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, there is a sense of nostalgia; like watching an old black and white movie. Contradictory to the title however, the poem depicts a perplexing scene of a father drunkenly dancing his son up to bed. There is a bit of controversy about this poem over whether this is about a childhood memory of a son’s cherished moment with his father, or if it is about a violent, dysfunctional family situation. In fact it is both. Theodore Roethke had a conflicting relationship with his father. He adored the man, but feared him at the same time. Roethke lost his father as a young teen and much of his literary works reflect the impact the father had on his son.
There were several words in the poem that were revised during the process of writing “My Papa’s Waltz” according to an academic article written by John J. McKenna. This proves Roethke debated heavily over the image the world would have of this memory of his father. In the first stanza, there is an indication that this dance is not going to be as elegant as the form of dance in which the writer is referring to in the title. In line 3, the writer reveals that the speaker of the poem is the child. Instead of the commonly used phrase “hung on for dear life,” Roethke uses the simile, “I hung on for death”, giving the poem a negative connotation. The word death supposes that the child is in distress as he…
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