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My Papa's Waltz

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Miguel J. Merriweather
Phyllis Steward
English 2003- World Literature I
Diagnostic Essay
August 29, 2011 The overall attitude I receive from the poem is that the speaker is having a moment to retrospect to the father. Reliving the times where the father would come home from a bar after a long day’s work to a child, staying up past normal bedtime anticipating his/her father’s return, eager to engage in good nature fun before both retired off to bed. The first stanza demonstrates the excitement the child has for the father. The smell of liquor emitting from the father’s breath, “Could make a small boy dizzy” illustrates how heavily the father indulged himself on alcohol, yet the speaker was not going to let the present opportunity to play or “waltz” go by the wayside stating, “But I hung on like death.” The speaker wanted us obtain a great feel of jubilance once the two started playing.
In the second stanza, we learn that the speaker and the father’s horse playing was so rough that even the mother of the speaker’s expression on her face told a story of discontent, “We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf/ My mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself.” We can conclude that, like every parent, the mother is a bit concerned that the two are playing too rough and has become worried about them either destroying kitchen appliances or themselves. The third stanza begins with a vivid description that could lead one to believe that the father does strenuous labor to provide for the family, “The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle.” This description from the speaker lets us know that it is possible that the father’s work involves the use of his hands. We also receive a reminder of the level of intoxication that the speaker is witnessing of his/her father. The line “At every step you missed”, lead us to believe that he was probably stumbling during the playing of the two. Although we do not get an actual age of the speaker in the poem, we do have an idea however of how old the speaker is. While the father misses the step, the speaker’s right ear scrapes the belt buckle at the same time. The speaker has to be fairly young at age considering that the speaker is at eye level with the father’s waistline. In the final stanza of the poem, the speaker gives us an idea that the playful activity that the two was engaged in is probably coming to an end. Beating time on the speaker’s head could indicate that the father tired himself out with his child and wants to relax. We further get another understanding of specifically what type of work the father does. The palm of the father’s hand being caked hard by dirt can indicate that the father is an industrial laborer. As the poem ends, we get an understanding from the speaker that he/she is reluctant to let this moment in time come to an end by still clinging to the father’s shirt as the speaker is being escorted off to bed. I generally felt that this “waltz” the speaker referred to was no actual dance, but to symbolize horse play. The speaker never conveyed a feel of actual dancing between the two, just wholesome interaction between a father and his child. I would perceive the event as too rough in nature, based on the actions and the state of the father and the dissatisfaction displayed by the mother.

Works Cited
Roethke, Theodore. "My Papa 's Waltz." Lives through Literature. Ed. Helane L. Keating and Walter Levy. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001. 102. Print.

Cited: Roethke, Theodore. "My Papa 's Waltz." Lives through Literature. Ed. Helane L. Keating and Walter Levy. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001. 102. Print.

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