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My Papa's Waltz

Theodore Roethke

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My Thoughts
Added by: Shannon
Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” is a very good yet controversial poem. I have read it previously and have heard different interpretations on it. Many people say that this poem is about child abuse and quite frankly that idea really enrages me. It seems like people today can take any poem and make it about something depressing. Just because today’s society is the way it is, harsh and sickening, doesn’t mean that is what it has always been like. This poem was written in the 1940’s, this decade was a time of war and also a simpler time when most everybody lived on a farm and did farm work. This poem is a child’s memory of a time he spent with his father. With respect to the time that this poem was written it could be about a young boy whose father is busy with work and doesn’t spend a lot of time with him but this evening the father decided to dance with his son, perhaps because he was drunk, but nevertheless it meant a lot to the boy. When the poem states “Such waltzing was not easy” I think it adds to the idea that the child didn’t spend a lot of time with his father; it wasn’t easy to do such things because his father wasn’t around a lot. The father was drunk, maybe from going to the bar after a hard days work. There are several lines that suggest that the father did a lot of hard manual labor, like when it says, “The hand that held my wrist/Was battered on one knuckle” and “with a palm caked hard by dirt”. This was an exciting time for the child and so he remembered all of the little things that you might not otherwise notice. The lines “But I hung on like death” and “Still clinging to your shirt” suggest that the boy didn’t want this to end because that meant that his father would be away from him again. It may not be the happiest childhood memory; however, it is one nonetheless.
Added by: EHNhaXXor

Its really about an alchoholic father who came home DRUNK and started waltzing with his son.

" we romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf" means that they were bumping into things.

" the hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle"

means the dad got in a fight at bar or somewhere.

"still clinging to your shirt"
could mean that the boy wants attention from his father, or it could mean that the boy didnt want to fall or he didnt want his dad to fall.

"my mothers countenance could not unfroun itself"
could mean that she is disapointed that her hudband is drunk again.

"with a palm caked hard by dirt"
could mean that the father was falling down a lot.

" at every step you missed my right ear scrapped a buckle"
could mean that the boy is very young and short ( up to his dad's waist )

well i think that was a hell of a statement...
Added by: Kirsten
I think this poem shows a young boy/girl who sees his/her father is drunk. The father being drunk starting dancing with the young boy/girl and he is swaying side to side maybe that is the,"waltz". I think that the bloody knuckles are maybe just because of a bar fight. The carshing of the dishes is caused by the swaying of the intoxicated father. I think the scraping of the belt is that the boy/girl ios so short that when hers/his body doesnt follow the body of the fathers then the belt buckle scrapes him when trying to get back in line. He is holding on for dear life because his father is swaying and could fall over at any moment. I think Theodore Roethke is making the narrator recall a happy remembrance in his life.
Response to one of the posted comments
Added by: Commentaror
There is one posted by " a person" that said that the professor has horrible grammer

but it is not written: grammer is grammar.
Added by: maggie
Roethke's father from cancer when he was only about fifteen years old. This gives the poem's line "clinging to him like death" a whole new meaning. Through his poetry Roethke recreates a sweet memory of his father. His love for his father is very apparent in this poem. I enjoyed it very much.
My Papa's Waltz
Added by: James Marsh
If you would do a little historical reasearch on Mr. Roethke, you'll find he had many bouts of depression over his fathers death from cancer in 1932. The mudcaked hand?? His parents owned a greenhouse. I believe after reading about him, you'll be convinced this is no more than a loving tribute to his Dad.
Added by: Miku Miku
i dont think this is a sad poem. it's about the relationship between a hard man with his child. though his work is hard and got lots of problems in his mind (that's why he is taking alchohol. ) , but he didnt abuse his child......
my papa's waltz
Added by: Boudreau
The father had a few drinks after work. dances with his boy playfully around the kitchen. Then takes him to bed. It's happy.
Theodore Roethke lost his father at a young age, loved him and missed him. Wrote poems about his love for his father.
Added by: Tim
It's not about getting beat. The child is doing a waltz - a fast paced dance. The kid is on his dad's shoes, and his dad isn't drunk, but has had something to drink. He's a hardworking dad who gets home late from the taverns. The mother is angry because the boys are messing up the kitchen. Since it is a boy, when the two miss a step, the boy's head scrapes the belt buckle. When they're done, the kid clings onto his dad because he wants to play more.

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