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My Papa's Waltz

Theodore Roethke

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Child Abuse
Added by: Jordan Chambers
Theodore Rothke writes about the special love between a man and his son. The man is an alcoholic who after work and before bed dances with his son. Though he is drunk, he shows his love for the boy through his dance, merrily inambitious and courageous enough to show his love and to illustrate the consequences of not going his way. It is an innocent poem of how some fathers are a little tougher on their children when they want to show love.
Added by: M Kelly
If the spelling of many of the entries re Roethke is indicative of the state of education in America today, Lord help us all; note the spelling of Roethke; note the spelling of literal (one t if you please) and doesn't anyone read properly? Roethke's parents arrived here in the early 1900s--WELL PRIOR TO WWI /WW11.
my papa's waltz
Added by: a person
One: I can tell that the professor isn't a professor (horrible grammer).
Two: Yes, we should read into poetry. Roethke's poem was a reflection of his childhood and should studied as so. The only argument is that poetry is like art, open to ones own interp.
Added by: brenda
how do we know the father is an alcoholic? It simply states the whickey on you breath. We don't know how much he drank; it could have been a little or mayble a lot to be tipsy. One does not really know if maybe he's celebrating something.
My Papa's Waltz
Added by: Anne McKeever
The narrator remembers the excitement of "dancing" with his father, a boozy, rough guy who is loving and affectionate. If this had been a poem about an abusive father, why would Roethke say they "romped"? Why would he call his memory a "waltz"? Why would the boy be "still clinging to his shirt" as he was "waltzed off to bed"? This is a lovely tribute poem to a loving parent. Why do people assume a father with "whiskey breath" is a child-abuser?? Maybe people read too much of their OWN abusive past into the poem? My own father was at his friendly best when he had gin on his breath and I cherish my memories of being a kid in his arms.
Added by: Newman
There is no way that this poem is about child beating.
Poem Analysis
Added by: Tanya
Theodore Roethke seems to have the tendency to write with diction prominently in his poem, 'My Papa's Waltz'. In many sentences of this poem he begins a line with a word that shares the element of diction with the ending word of that line. This is done several times throughout the poem!
Literal vs. symbolic interpretations
Added by: Kate Posey
If one takes the poem literaly, than it has the flavor of Mr. Rabit's wild ride of a young child's nostolgic memory of raucous days with his father. However, people who have been abused often speak in code and phrases like "romping until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf," the "battered knuckle" (intergenerational abuse), "beating time on his head", etc suggest more. The literal reaction to the poem may mimic societies tendency to deny the abuse that is in their own back yard.
Added by: abid
probably the father is dead now. and the poet misses him.
he is a loving father the frown on the mother's face is because of the mess they are making in the kitchen. i don't think this poem is about child abuse.
My Papa's Waltz
Added by: sunshine
I see this poem as a hard working, drinking man who comes home and dances awkwardly with his son. The adult speaker, (then child), tells of his fond recollections of the waltz's he had with his papa when he was young. "We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen self" makes it sound like a fun and playful experience. To a child, the speed of the waltz may have seemed frightening which is why he may have said "But I hung on like death". The boy may have been standing on top of his fathers feet and being that his father missed a beat during their dance is what led to "My right ear scraped a buckle". When the child referred to "You beat time on my head" leads me to believe the father was keeping beat to the music by tapping the top of the boys head. Not actually beating him. I see no child abuse in this poem.

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