My Papa’s Waltz - Battered Knuckles Essay

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My Papa’s Waltz - Battered Knuckles

Many people look back on memories with a pleasant slant. A backpacker may love to go to the mountains, but every time that person ventures out he encounters a blizzard. The weather is not always conducive to the backpacker and can cause great discomfort. However, when the hiker returns to his normal routine he usually forgets about the bad experience so that he can continue loving the mountains and happily plan his next adventure. Similarly, Theodore Roethke's, "My Papa's Waltz" is a poem about a man who tries to make a horrible event into something much more pleasant to think about. The speaker seems to be remembering back to his childhood and finally uncovers dark memories about his father.
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The speaker in this poem is obviously bothered by the smell of the liquor on his fathers' breath and the actions the alcohol facilitates.

Some people drink for the sport of getting drunk. However, in this poem, the father is not a pleasant drunk to be around. When the speaker states "We romped until the pans / slid from the kitchen shelf," the reader gets the impression that the father is roughhousing with the son (5-6). It is not until the speaker says "The hand that held my wrist (9)" that one realizes that he is being physically held by his father. The child has no choice but to keep on "waltzing." There is nobody that is going to stop what is going on in this house due to the fact that the mother is simply watching. The boy did not realize his father was doing anything wrong until he remembers back to his childhood and comes to understand what really happened. He discovers that his childhood wasn't actually like everyone else. That may be why the speaker is now looking back on these drunken nights and remembering how horrible they were.

A strong case for physical abuse could be made by reasoning that this is not just one occurrence of drunken behavior because the speaker reveals how his father's knuckles are battered. His knuckles would not have been battered if the hitting only happened after one night of drinking on one occasion.
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