My Papas Waltz Essay Example
My Papas Waltz Essay Example

My Papas Waltz Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1521 words)
  • Published: April 29, 2017
  • Type: Paper
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Relationships are very complex. To an outsider looking in, it may appear to be an unhealthy, or maybe even an abusive relationship, when in actuality it is a healthy relationship. Sure, the relationship may be different, but still it remains a healthy relationship which is what is important. This describes the relationship between the father and the son in the poem “My Papa’s Waltz. ” On the surface, the father appears to be a drunk, and the kid, somewhat skittish, or scared around him; however, one must dig deeper than the surface level to be able to comprehend and appreciate the love shared between the father and the son in this poem.

Through the use of literary devices such as extended metaphors and similes, the reader can see that the waltz is not merely a danc


e shared between the father and son; it reflects the relationship of the two. Likewise, the form of the poem plays a similar role. The fact that the form is very structured, and offers up little change as the poem goes on echoes how the waltz is similar to the relationship to the father and the son. A change that the poem does offer up is the tone of the language of the poem. It starts off rather melancholy to becoming more positive and upbeat.

In the poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” Roethke builds a strong, loving emotional bridge between a father and a son via waltzing, and in doing so breaks down the pre conceived notion that drunken fathers are abusive fathers, and are incapable of loving. Anyone that has ever loved knows that it is mysterious and unexplainable, and the wa

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it is expressed differs from person to person. Throughout the poem, the use of similes and Gamerdinger 2 metaphors are used in order to better develop the relationship of love and care between the father and the son. The waltz itself is an extended metaphor for the love the father and the son have for one another.

Love is not always smooth, and the waltz in this story is not smooth either. This is seen when the child notes that with every step you missed “my right ear scraped a buckle” (Roethke 11). From the first stanza the reader learns that the father has been heavily drinking by that fact that the whiskey on his breath “could make a small boy dizzy” (Roethke 2). There is no refuting or arguing this fact, and because this, waltzing with his father under the given conditions was “not easy” (Roethke 4). However, this lack of coordination on the father’s part brings the two that much more close. The arrator has to hang onto his father “like death” (Roethke 4). There is no chance of him getting separated from his dad. Similar to how there is no chance of his father escaping deaths clutches, there is no chance of him escaping the clutches of his son. Physically, the father and son are extremely close in proximity, and it is because of this close proximity that makes the waltz that much more intimate and that much more meaningful for the child. This is reiterated at the end of the story as well when the narrator is waltzed “off to bed still clinging” to his father’s shirt (Roethke 15).

The image gained by

that last sentence is one of happiness and warmth. The father and son are gaily dancing off to bed together, with no chance of the kid letting go of his father. One would not cling to someone out of loathe and disgust and if that was the case, it would speak on how terrified the child was, but it does not. He is attached to his father; he is inseparable from his father; he loves his father. Gamerdinger 3 It would be great if everything and everybody was perfect, unfortunately that is not the case. The development, the organization, the melodic and rhythmic approach of this poem mirrors that of the waltz.

The waltz is a very melodic and timed dance, and if the reader doesn’t know this, the father alludes to it by beating “time” on his sons head (Roethke 13). This poem is written with five quatrain stanza’s, with each stanza having the same a, b, a, b rhyming pattern. This poem is very well and put together and organized. The waltz is the exact same way. It is a dance done in rhythmic timing, and is done closed position, and with regards to dancing, closed position simply means that it is a dance that requires body contact, support from your partner, but most importantly, it requires one person to lead.

The child mentions that his father “waltzed me off to bed” (Roethke 15). The father guides the child through the waltz just like how the rhyming pattern of the poem guides the reader through each stanza. The mother was present to see this waltz because she watched on with an expression that “could not

unfrown itself” (Roethke 8). The father chooses to perform this intimate and loving dance with his son instead of his wife, showing that he must hold his son with high regards. The mirroring of the form and structure of the poem to that of the waltz shows that father and son share a special relationship that is full of love.

The only difference between the waltz, and the waltz done in this story, is that the father, the lead of this waltz, dancing while under the influence of some alcohol. The reader is alerted to the fact that he has been drinking right away when the narrator explains that whiskey on his father’s breath “could make a small boy dizzy” (Roethke 2). The fact that the father is drunk has little to do with the gesture of him waltzing with his son, and rather it deals Gamerdinger 4 with his performance of the waltz. As the narrator explains, “with every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle” (Roethke 11).

The narrator is reflecting on this event, and at the time of this event the child was a little in stature, whose head was up to the height of his father’s belt. The father missing a step results in his partner to graze their ear on his belt buckle. The fact that his father had been drinking does not detract from the fact that he waltzing with his boy. Through the child’s eyes, the only negative aspect of the event he sees is his mother’s expression. Even when the child acknowledges that his father had been drinking, all he says is that the “waltzing was not

easy” (Roethke 4).

With everything taken into account, he is still dancing with his son, maybe it is not to the level he could usually perform at, but this less than sober waltzing only makes the dance itself that much more difficult it does not detract from the relationship between the two. When people look back at events, they are critical on their own actions, causing them to be honest to themselves. Sometimes, it takes the individual telling their story to realize what actually happened, and this is the case for the narrator in this story.

There is a huge difference from the tone in the first stanza to that in the last stanza. The tone in the language goes from the kid hanging onto his father “like death,” to the child “clinging” to him (Roethke 3, 16). It goes from giving a somewhat gloom account of being attached to his father to a nostalgic tone, and one of love. Similar to this, in the beginning of the story, the son and his father “romped” around the kitchen, and at the end of the story they are no longer romping, because the son and his father “waltzed off to bed” (Roethke 5).

The verb romped portrays a more rough and boisterous waltz, most likely attributed to the “whiskey”, but at the end of the story it’s as if the Gamerdinger 5 “whiskey” is no longer relevant and the narrator and his father are now just enjoying a waltz together. It’s as if they have refined their dancing skills; it’s as if they have refined their love for one another. As the reader looks into the relationship between the

father and the son, we gain insight that only the poem can supply that give their love more meaning to it.

It is possible to see then that the father is portrayed as a loving father who has merely had too much to drink. Nowhere in the poem does it say that the father is drunk, this can only be gained through generalizations and assumptions. This is echoed by the format of the poem. Also, it is shown that the father’s and the son’s relationship is developed throughout the poem as the tone of the language within the poem begins to shift for the better. Love shared between a father and a son have such a profound effect on both party’s lives, and this waltz shared between father and son will allow this love to flourish and grow.

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