Imagery in My Papa’s Waltz Essay

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Imagery in My Papa’s Waltz

Donald Hall describes the use of imagery in poetry as a device that "makes us more sensitive to [literature], as if we acquired eyes that could see through things"(p 530). Imagery creates vivid details that deal with one's sense of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. These details can be seen in Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" because the senses of touch, sight, sound, and smell appeal to the reader in order to better explain the feelings of each character in the poem. Roethke's use of imagery creates a negative picture that is painted by the son of an abusive father.

The poem "My Papa's Waltz" uses imagery by especially appealing to the sense of touch. The sense of touch also helps the reader
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Another abusive incident which appeals to the sense of touch occurs in the fourth stanza. The father "beat time on [the son's] head" with a "palm caked hand of dirt" (13-14). These lines create a picture of the father as a working man who takes aggression out on his son. Appealing to the sense of touch better illustrates the physical pain the son endures. The sense of touch used in the third and fourth stanza's help to prove that the poem has a negative and abusive theme.

The sense of light also aids in the use of imagery. Visualizing the scene is important because the reader can understand the entire incident in the poem. The sense of sight is first introduced with the idea of the "waltz". The "waltz", however, symbolizes the battle between the father and son and is used as a reference throughout the poem. The first reference is in the title, "My Papa's Waltz". This reference continues throughout the poem by continually referring to the "waltz". The first stanza discusses the difficulty in waltzing when the son points out "waltzing was not easy" (4). This line paints a picture for the reader of a son dealing with the hardship of having an abusive father. The last stanza ends with a final reference to the "waltz". The father "waltzed me off to bed" which implies the son received another beating before bedtime (15). The symbolic meaning of the "waltz" enriches the abusive theme by
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