My Papa Waltz Poem

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Quynh Nguyen
Lynn Hovde
English 101
February 17th, 2010
The Memory of the Waltz
After reading the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke (807), I realized that there are many different opinions about this poem. Some people think that this poem is about parental abuse, the other also think that it is about the happy memory of the relationship between father and son. In my point of view, the speaker in the poem is expressing his joyful time when he’s dancing with his father. The whole poem is talking about the memory of the author about waltzing with his father when he was young. This poem has four stanzas and each stanza has four quatrains.

In the first stanza, the speaker describes his drunken father by “the whiskey on your breath/ Could make a small boy dizzy.” They start dancing when the father gets back home from work. Even though the boy can’t follow his father beat, he still “hung on like death” and won’t let go of his father hands. We can see that the boy is having a very good relationship with his father, and he still feel happy when he’s dancing with his father who has a really strong whiskey breath, and always make the boy feel dizzy. The playful scene continues in the second stanza, and this time it moves to the kitchen. “We romped until the pans/ Slid from the kitchen shelf.” The father and the son keep dancing and moving in the kitchen until all the tools in the kitchen fall from the shelf to the floor. They make the mother feel unpleasant. The mother doesn’t want them to dance in the kitchen, but she doesn’t stop them. In the third stanza, their waltz is continued by the father holding the son’s wrist on one knuckle, and if the father misses any step, his son will scratch his ear into the buckle “at every step you missed/ Mu right ear scraped a buckle”. Although the little boy hurts, he still doesn’t want to stop dancing and he still clings on to his father’s rough hands. By describing his father knuckle, we can see that the father is a...
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