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My Papa's Waltz

Theodore Roethke

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True Meaning
Added by: Samantha
This is a fight between a teenage boy and a drunk father. The "waltz" is the fight that the get into in the kitchen.
child abuse
Added by: Liz
This poem is filled with abusive imagery. First, while having whiskey on one's breath does not make one an alcoholic, having it described as, "making a child dizzy" does not promote a good connotation of the alcohol. The child hangs onto the father like death. A child who is having a good time hangs on with glee or with gusto not like death. As they romp around the kitchen, so hard that they push pans on the floor, mother's countenance 'cannot unfrown itself' She is not happy. She cannot do anything but sit and look disparingly upon the situation. "battered," "scraped," and "beat" all promote negative connotations to the situation and as another commenter suggested, are probably code for the child's abusive situation.

This is not a happy poem. This is a sad situation told from an innocent child's eyes.
Added by: Tom Britton
What I take from it, at least, is that this is a poem about a son's unconditional love for his father. Read into the potential scenarios all you want but what we can literally take from the poem is that this is a less-than-perfect father (and perhaps husband) but the final line "still clinging to your shirt" paints an image of this unconditional love...and i suppose dependency...of the boy toward his father.
Added by: Matt Majors
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: emily
Many people have tried convincing me that this poem is about a drunken father abusing his son. I truely can understand the points they are trying to make, but still, i believe this is just a poem about a grown man recalling a wonderful time that he shared with his father just dancing and playing around. And i really enjoed it.
Added by: Beth H
I agreee that this poem is about a child with great love and respect for his father. His "Papa" comes home from work to play with him and get him riled up before bed. Too many people now a days think too much about the bad stuff, alcoholism and abuse rather than the literal meaning, LOVE.
Added by: me
this poem is about a boy who loves his alcoholic father, who comes home drunk and dances with his son. his son loves him but is sort of confused about why his father is hurting him. the son is too young to understand why his father is acting this way
Added by: cathy, L.E.S.P
The poem made me think that in the 20th century, the father used to be a drunk. Maybe Roethke's father worked all day, he was being under so much pressure, he need to relax,and he drunk.Also he was a labourer.so he was rough.He didnot konw how to express his love to Roethke. He just used his own way to love him. This poem just reminds me of my father.When i was a child, he used to blame me and treated me roughly. Even thouth i knew that he blamed me because he loves me, but the relationship between me and my father was cold. Because he just used his own way to express his love to me , but this expression was unacceptable for me.Exactly i yearned for my father's love. I didnot understand the austere love as a child. When i was a child , i just wanted my father to say "i love you" for me everyday and listened to me to know what i think. I thought that was the way he loves me.But he didnot. so i thought he didnot care about me.
Added by: Bri Lynn
For all of you who argue that this poem is not about child abuse lines 9-13:
"The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head..."
Also, the word "romp" has a second definition: rough, lively play or an easy victory over an easy opponent.
Whether he was drunk or a little tipsy, we all know he had alcohol one way or another, therefore his behavior could probably be a little harsh, especially with a young boy.
Added by: someone
There are different way to interpret this poem. i don't think anyway should get mad at someone just because their interpretation is not the same as you. so just put your comments about the poem and don't criticise people.

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