Emotional Analysis Of My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

Decent Essays

In “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, the writer reflects on his childhood experience with his father through a memory of dancing a waltz. Roethke describes the dance with details that hint at physical force coming from a possibly drunk dad. The reader is left to construe whether the relationship is simply a carefree love or if it has a darker meaning, possible parental abuse. Roethke uses particular structure, language, and characterization to develop an somewhat ambiguous relationship that the reader is left to interpret.
Roethke wrote My Papa’s Waltz in iambic trimeter, which is a familiar rhythm created through three stressed syllables per line. More specifically, Roethke uses an ABAB rhyme scheme, which means every other line within each stanza rhymes. For example, in line 1, breath rhymes with death, appearing in line 4. “The whiskey on your breath… But I hung on like death.” The style of this piece is also uniquely formed because it resembles a waltz, which is typically written in ¾ time. A waltz also takes three steps for every movement, which might resemble how the child’s papa is attempting to dance. Roethke uses figurative language in the form of similes and personification to mold the meaning behind the father’s relationship with his son. In line 3 when the child says, “But I hung on like death”, a simile is used to emphasize how the boy is clinging onto his father’s shirt with all his life. The deeper meaning to this simile is how death could occur if

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