In Theodore Roethke’s poem My Papa’s Waltz, the author recreates a scene involving a father and son with questionable mood and tone. Roethke leaves the interpretation of the feelings up to the reader. However, some feel the interaction between the two is not positive. The author uses negative imagery, enjambment, and rhyme to convey an image of a father abusing his son.
Negative imagery can be found throughout the poem as the author uses this mainly to convey the feeling in the piece. The author uses words like “beat” and phrases such as “hung on like death” to show the father was not really keeping time but hurting his child and how the boy was clinging so fiercely to his father’s shirt is shown in that short phrase. The reader is also lead to believe the father is drunk because the author tells them there was whiskey on his breath and one assumes also that he is drunk because of the pans he knocks off the wall and the steps he misses. The author also tells how the mother is frowning and does not approve of the father’s actions. This also leads the reader to assume the interaction is negative.
Enjambment is used throughout the poem to create feeling as the reader continues into the story. The author uses this device to create an uncomfortable feeling about what is happening because as each line cuts off, a bit of disunity between the lines is added. It also makes the reader pause for a few seconds before continuing onto the next stanza.
The addition of rhyme to the poem adds a sense of playfullness at first but this feeling is quickly changed to an uncomfortable feeling. The rhyme adds a beat to the poem with an ABAB rhyming format and this helps pace the reader. Also, the rhyming makes some words stand out. When the author uses slant rhyme for pans and countenance, it draws attention to the mother’s feelings about the incident. Also, the slant rhyme between wrist and missed brings up how the father is controlling the sons movements while he drunkenly...