"My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke is a four quatrain poem written in iambic trimeter. The rhyme scheme present is abab, cdcd, efef, and ghgh. In the poem, the son is remembering a time when his father, who was excessively drunk at the time, carrying him through the kitchen off to bed. It was a rough, almost abusive, journey though because his father, who is already drunkenly waltzing him, is probably not used to handling things with care at work since his hands are described as "caked hard by dirt" and "battered on one knuckle". The speaker in the poem, the son, is clearly holding onto this memory of his father for whatever reason: maybe he died early, was working all the time, or abandoned the family.
To understand the depth of Roethke's poem, we can start by identifying the different layers of tones in "My Papa's Waltz". At first glance of the poem, one might think that it is a very dark, gloomy story. The words that give away this melancholy tone are: whiskey, death, unfrown, scraped, and beat. Roethke continues the drunken theme in the beginning of the poem with the slant rhymes. These near rhymes and appearance rhymes help create the allusion that there is some obscurity and slurring going on. Whether Roethke wanted this or not, the reader will focus on these aspects of the poem more heavily because society is instantly protective of a child in danger. The poem is setup for the reader to think there is alcoholism and child abuse going on in this family by the masculine father with the mother is just standing by frowning because she is unable to do anything.
On the contrary, the speaker views this scene as a very cherished memory. If we look closely, there is a deeper, more loving tone in the speaker's voice for his father. We can tell by looking at the vocabulary and syntax used in the poem. Referring to his father as "Papa" automatically gives away that the boy still loves father because papa was an affectionate term used by innocent young boys at...
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