My Papa's Waltz

| Literal Comprehension

“My Papa’s Waltz” is a poem by Theodore Roethke. 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 take him to bed. But the boy still held on to his father’s shirt.


| Interpretation

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 tones.

They are:

  • How could they dance until the utensils get fallen in the kitchen?
  • How could a child feel happy after being bitten by the father?
  • How could a responsible member of the family act carelessly on their children’s life?


| Assimilation

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 hand, he still loves him and has the desire to be loved in return.

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Founder and Author at Superb Future. Babu is a student of Business specializing in Sales and Marketing Management. "Everyone is a marketer, whether you are a businessman or a homemaker."


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