My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke

645 Words Feb 20th, 2018 3 Pages
Roethke illustrates the poem’s images from his own childhood memories. Roethke uses simple words to create puzzling phrases that could be interpreted in different ways. The poem is ambiguous due to certain word choices that have baffling double meanings. Roethke’s poem paints an image of his childhood interactions with his father. Roethke paints this picture by using ambiguity within a waltz-like structure.
A sense of uneasiness is created from the very first stanza.
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy. (1-4)
The first two lines are a double meaning. “Whiskey on your breath” could mean that the father was an alcoholic, or that he had just a sip of whiskey. Even a small sip of whiskey can make any child dizzy because the smell of alcohol is strong. These lines create a double meaning and a sense of uneasiness in their relationship. In the second two lines, ambiguity arises in the meaning behind the words. A sense of fun is created when the son is waltzing with his father, but the boy is only tall enough to reach his father’s belt buckle. The father might be having a fun time with his son, but because he is much bigger than his son, the interactions seem a bit overwhelming. The words “hung on like death” indicate that the game the father and the…