English Paper 1 - Cureton Gannon Dr Meredith McCarroll...

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Cureton Gannon Dr. Meredith McCarroll November 17, 2010 Paper 1 The Debate Continues: “My Papa’s Waltz” Abuse or Discipline? Ever since Roethke wrote the poem “My Papa’s Waltz”, a controversial debate has ensued. Scholars have discussed the meanings and significance of words, such as the choice of “papa” instead of father, the waltz and whiskey from the father’s breath. Also Roethke’s purposeful and strategically mixed positive and negative tones throughout the poem leaves the reader to be the judge, to decide through the lens of their lives and allow their experiences to be their guide. The most frequently chosen topic from this poem indeed, is the father abusing his son or is it tough love shown through discipline? Evidence from the actual poem can be drawn for both sides and supported. Roethke intentionally wrote the poem the way he did for this reason. He did not want it to be completely one-sided, where he is the speaker telling the reader what is happen and that is it. Roethke takes it a step further and allows the reader in some ways to become the speaker. One has to make assumptions and take the tones like the pieces of a puzzle and fit them together to make a full picture. From this picture, some have called it a “poem of terror”; while others insist that Roethke constructs a scene of “persistent love and comedy”. Also critics form a balance of the two arguments presenting the father’s strength as a “source of both admiration and fear, of comfort and restriction.” With the rich ambiguity of the original poem and the huge array of scholarly opinions, it is difficult to work through the clutter; however, it is a main purpose of the work.
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