Ambiguity In My Papa's Waltz

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Topics: Family, Poetry
Ambiguity tone of “My Papa’s Waltz”

Ambiguity is an element that poets use to interpret something in more than one way. Ambiguity makes a poem strong and weak at the same time because ambiguous tones make people think, ambiguity also enables different interpretations of the theme. “My papa’s waltz” by Theodore Roethke’s is an example of a poem with ambiguity. The unidentified persona and the use of diction create conflicting perspectives. An ambiguous tone is used in Theodore Roethke’s “My papa’s waltz” to humanize the memory.

My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke, is a poem which can be interpreted in two different ways, depending on how it is read. One can read the poem as it appears at first glance, the poem can be viewed as a son's
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The dance is described as not at all polished nor graceful, but more as clumsy, carefree and playful aggressive, for example “Such waltzing was not easy” (4) enables the reader to view it as done with love, a child is dancing with his father in the house just before bedtime. One may argue that the waltz is used to represent a violent encounter between father and son. The waltz could be being used to lessen the effect of the beatings and drunkenness as a result giving his father a more human feel. The poet’s choice of diction to describe to the waltz enforces an ambiguous tone. For example, “you beat time on my head” (13) the choice of the work beat leads to a strong indication that this waltz was rough. It creates an unsettling imagery of a scared young boy having his head beat at the hands of the man he loves so …show more content…
This could simply be because its late and she’s not okay with the mess that they are make and she thinks that the young boy should be in bed by now, for example “My mother's countenance” (7). The use of the word countenance implies that all though she is not happy about it, she accepts the behavior and is in a way supporting it by not stopping it. On the other hand, the boy continues and says that “"My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself" (7-8) these two lines put together, create an image of a powerless bystander. It implies that the mother feels too incapable to stop the father and can only stand there and do nothing but frown.

"My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke is an ambiguous poem. The word choices made in this poem are intentional and create two parallel ways of viewing this poem. One thing to be agreed upon is that whether you look at it from a fond memory perspective or from the perspective of a confused narrator who has known idea on how to interpret this memory, both views leave the reader with feelings of unease and disturbance. The ambiguous tone of “My papa’s waltz” by Theodore Roethke is used as a device to humanize the

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