My Papa's Waltz │ Four Levels │ Summary │ English │ Theodore Roethke

My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz │ Theodore Roethke
- Theodore Roethke

Literal Comprehension:

The narrator felt the whiskey on his father's breath. He felt unpleasant but continued dancing. They would play in the kitchen and when the pans fell down the mother would be angry.

His finger joint was damaged and when he missed his step, the boy's right ear would hurt. He would beat time on the boy's head with his hard palm and took him to bed. But the boy still held on to his father's shirt.


This poem states playful interactions between the father and son, the majority of the poem focuses on the father's drunken aggression toward the boy.

The poem is the story of a young boy revealing the hardships he has lived through with his alcoholic father, while still possessing a great love for his dad.

Critical Thinking:

Though this poem projects an uplifting story of father and son sharing a precious moment together, waltzing around the house. I am not going to agree totally with the poet about some of the tone.

They are:

  • How could they dance until the utensils get fallen in the kitchen?

  • How could a child feel happy by being bitten by the father?

  • How could a responsible member of the family act carelessly on their children's life?


Thus, throughout "My Papa's Waltz", I view the father as a loving, caring dad and not a belligerent drunk. I believe that even though the son has been beaten around the house by his had, he still loves him and has a desire to be loved in return.

-- 𓐴𓐴𓐴 --

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