Analysis Of My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

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Theodore Roethke’s poem, “My Papa’s Waltz” has spurred passionate academic debates among professors, scholars, and students; the imagery, context, and diction of the poem clearly supports the interpretation that Roethke writes “My Papa’s Waltz” reflecting on his relationship with his father. A relationship in which, notably, causes harm to the author. However, through all the nights Roethke spent in pain and in horror, his love for his father still exists. While many people believe that the author tells a lovely story of a fond memory with his father, it is not possible that the use of negative imagery and negative diction does not play a role in the story told. “My Papa’s Waltz” tells the story of a “small boy” who is abused by his…show more content…
Furthermore, the negative imagery in “My Papa’s Waltz” strengthens the interpretation that the poem is about abuse. Throughout the entire poem the author noticeably creates multiple negative images. Roethke mentions how he “hung on like death” and how his father “held [his] wrist” not his hand. From these two lines we can already see how Roethke is in some kind of danger or trouble, for he “hung on like death” which serves to explain how he barely survived---he had much trouble staying on. His father also does not hold his hand; he holds his “wrist,” as if he were getting his son in trouble. If his father would to “waltz,” as in dance with his son, he would hold him by the hand not the wrist. Further, Roethke mentions his mother whose “countenance” “could not unfrown itself.” Many argue the author implies that his mother frowns at the sight of the “pans” falling in the “kitchen.” Analyzing closely, one can conclude that it is unreasonable for a mother to just frown and watch her “pans” fall---logically, she would react in some other form by trying to stop it. Since the author does not mention any movement, it is reasonable to believe that the mother just stands there with a frown because her eyes come across a horrific image that she freezes in fear and can only frown upon this sight. Roethke’s father hurts and attacks his son in some form and Roethke tried to fight back and
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