Roethke's Smart Balance of Joy, Fear and Tension in His Poem "My Papa’s Waltz"

705 Words 3 Pages
Inevitability at one point in most of our lives we have to deal with some type of hardship. A lot of us have experienced first hand or known someone who has had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a close friend or family member who becomes abusive and aggressive because of drug or alcohol related problems. My Papa’s waltz is a poem that tells the story of a young boy dealing with an abusive father and a broken home. Despite the initial light atmosphere of the poem Theodore Roethke uses strong and powerful language to convey an underlined meaning to their dance. My Papa's Waltz is a poem of fear, all the more horrible because the boy is terrified and hurt by his father, even in play, yet he clings and hangs to him showing how strong …show more content…
Someone has to lead in a waltz, which highlights the father’s control over the small boy. It isn’t because the boy is being led, but instead the way the father is leading is what makes the dance “not easy.” Roethke uses the verb waltz to impose a sense of joy to the poem, because on literal level the waltz should be easy and smooth, but for the boy and his father it isn’t because apparently, their lives together aren’t easy. Continuing the tone of the first stanza, in the second stanza of the poem the word romped makes their waltz sound carefree, but they “romped until the pans/ Slid from the kitchen shelf.” Lines 5 and 6 show how their “waltz” is causing a violent disruption in their home that even the boys’ mother could not tolerate. Again with something that sounds as care free as dancing with your father Roethke implies an undertone of disturbance and violence that is inevitably taking a toll on their family and home life. Likewise in the third stanza the speaker mentions that the hand that held his wrist was battered on one knuckle. Undoubtedly, a hand holding a wrist is more aggressive and dominant than just a hand holding a hand like in a typical waltz, which is suppose to a smooth and easy glide. The fathers’ hand holding the speakers wrist shows both the difference in the size of their hands and that the speaker waltzes unwillingly. The fact that Roethke chooses the word battered
Open Document