Analysis Of ' My Papa 's Waltz '

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Emily Pestle Dr. Theodore Worozbyt ENGL 1102-505 02 February 2016 Dancing On: An Analysis of Form in Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” The title of a poem should dictate how the reader approaches the subject that is being discussed. In the title of this poem, the speaker refers to his father as “papa”. This shows that the speaker is very close with his father in this moment. This poem is classified as a lyric, which privileges the individual moment. By looking at what a lyric is, the reader should realize that one cannot assume that the speaker felt this way about his father for his whole life. He is just talking about how he was feeling in that particular moment. “My Papa’s Waltz” is told in a dual point of view. The speaker is thinking back now as an older man about how he felt when he was a child. A “waltz” is defined as “a dance in triple time performed to music in triple time by couples who, almost embracing each other, swing round and round in the same direction with smooth and even steps moving on as they gyrate” (OED). In the poem, Roethke mimics the ¾ time of the traditional waltz with three beats per line and four lines per stanza but reverses the meter. Therefore, the poem is actually a waltz in itself. The first stanza automatically starts off with the speaker’s sense of smell: The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. (1-4) The speaker starts off his memory with the smell of the
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