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The Violence of Child Abuse in My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke

Decent Essays
Child abuse is physical mistreatment that unfortunately happens to children everywhere around the world. In the same way, the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, describes and gives the readers an insight of what child abuse is like. The poem presents a relationship between a drunken father and his son. Therefore, the setting, sensory details, and word choice of the poem allows the reader to understand the violence the little boy goes through after his father returns from work.
The setting of the poem is very important to understand key elements that the poet is trying to express. The poem, “My Papa’s Waltz,” is set in the family’s kitchen. The lines “The whiskey on your breath…slid from the kitchen shelf;” let the readers assume
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Furthermore, the poet purposefully chooses to take readers on an emotional roller coaster most likely to let readers understand deeper feelings that the child is experiencing. With these sensory details throughout the poem and the use of alcohol (whiskey), it is easy for readers to associate the situation of a father abusing his child.
The word choice in the poem creates a tension and suggests violence the most. The word choice also creates a grimmer element “which is marked by a series of words beginning with ‘death’ in the first stanza and ending with ‘clinging’ in the last and including such words as ‘unfrown,’ ‘battered,’ ‘scraped,’ ‘beat,’ ‘hard’ in the middle stanzas” (Janssen 43). When the speaker says “At every step you missed, my right ear scraped a buckle” makes it clear that child is being hurt and abused; perhaps the actual reason the child’s guilt filled and helpless mother is unhappy, angry and disappointed (Roethke 126). The words that the poet chooses are hence very significant to understand the poem clearly.
Concisely, child abuse in the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” is clear through the provided context clues such as setting, emotions and word choice. By the end of the poem, readers get a family portrait with a drunken father, angry mother, and abused child (Janssen 43). The construction of the poem allows the reader to get a better understanding of the poem by the end. The poem also permits the readers to get an insight at child abuse and how it
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