Analysis Of My Papa's Waltz

Decent Essays

While the subject of the poem,“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke has spurred passionate academic debate from professors, scholars, and students alike, the imagery, syntax, and diction of the poem clearly support the interpretation that Roethke writes “My Papa’s Waltz” with purposeful ambiguity in order to express his own internal “coming to terms” with the nostalgic memory of the father he loves and lost at a young age. The intentional ambiguity of the poem between fond and abusive memories becomes clear as one examines the diction closely. Although diction is the most prevalent, imagery and syntax still play a key role. Imagery in the poem portrays a picture with relative meaning; however, it depends on what the reader wants to imagine. Lastly, the context or history of the tragic deaths that the author had to endure at such a young age gave the poem a sinister and or dark tone on the surface, until the reader digs deeper.
Admittedly, Roethke’s word choice vacillates between negative and positive connotations in order to exemplify an ambivalence between a fond memory and an abusive one. Words like “romped” and “waltzing” may have a positive denotation when one looks at a dictionary; yet, the poem proceeds to describe the “countenance” of the mother that “could not unfrown itself.” One can see from this that the “romping” and “waltzing” displeases the mother character in the poem, so that implies that what is going on is not enjoyable. One can then argue that it is

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