Analysis of Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” Essay

733 Words Apr 29th, 2012 3 Pages
Analysis of Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” illustrates a nightly ritual between a working-class father and his young son. In the first stanza a young boy holds tightly to his father. The second stanza describes a playful roughhousing between father and son. The fourth stanza shows again the boy’s unwillingness to let go of his father. Roethke’s AB rhyming scheme and waltz-like meter set a light and joyful cadence. The music of the waltz comes through in the reading and with it a carefree and innocent tone for the telling of the short amount of time between a hard-working father arriving home and the time when his son must go to bed. The lines of the first stanza bring to mind the …show more content…
Roethke also uses the third stanza to give an indication of the boy’s size. The narrator reflects of scraping his ear on his father’s belt when his father stumbles which describes the boy as waist high to his father and probably not any older than six or seven. The scraping of the boy’s ear seems of no consequence. Like any child when playing rough with a parent or sibling, he shrugs it off and keeps going, just happy in the moment. In the fourth and last stanza Roethke re-emphasizes his father as a laborer by once again describing his hands. These are the hands of a man who works in the dirt. A reference made to the father as he “…beat time…” (13) on the boys head, once again portrays the raucous way in which they are dancing; the father keeps time for their waltz while playfully drumming the beat on his child’s head. The last two lines of the poem are the key to understanding the tone and meaning behind the poem: “Then waltzed me off to bed / Still clinging to your shirt” (15-16). A perfect image of a son caught up in a moment with his father. Like all children he does not tire of the playtime. He doesn’t want to stop dancing; he doesn’t want to let go, and he doesn’t want to go to bed. Roethke paints a light-hearted and joyous reflection of a cherished memory between a father and son. The imagery
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