Words of Wisdom:

"It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning." -Calvin (& Hobbs)" - Dwayne


  • Date Submitted: 10/20/2010 08:33 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 67.8 
  • Words: 350
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In the poem "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke, the speaker is reflecting on a childhood experience involving his father. Some people think that this poem is one of a happy relationship between a father and son. Other people believe that this poem has a hidden message of parental abuse. In my point of view, the imagery and language, the symbolism, and tone in the poem gave me the impression of the love between the father and son, not of an abusive relationship. You may get the reaction of abuse because; the line, “whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy” suggests the dance was not a joyful one. Also lines, “hung on like death”, and “beat time on my head” might even lead the reader to think the father is abusive to the boy. But really what this poem is about, a father comes home drunk and happy and starts to dance the waltz with his son. In line 3, “but I hung on like death”, the boy hung onto his shirt not because of fear but he didn’t want to fall of while dancing with his father. And if the child was getting beat his mother would have reacted more than just a frown, “my mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself” (Line 7-8) the mother was angry because her pots and pans were flying everywhere, but was trying not to laugh at the father and son. Roethke’s father Otto Roethke hands were rough and dirty “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (Line 13) because he worked in a greenhouse, not because he would always abuse the child. The young boy is breathless because of all the playing around with his father. In line 15, “still clinging to your shirt” the boy is holding onto his father’s shirt because he doesn’t want to go to bed and continue to play with his father. As you can see the poem does not suggest an abusive environment, but is a strong bond of love and playfulness between father and son.


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