My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz - boy, he still hung on like death,...

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Julian Neri AP English Per. 2 February 28, 2008 “My Papa’s Waltz” Theodore Roethke’s villanelle describes a father son relationship which is based around rough housing. Although this poem is accessible at first, due to the catchy rhythm, the reader can argue for hours whether this type of behavior is harmful or out of love. Certainly, in our age the behavior noted is one to be questioned, with the rise in child- abuse awareness, but in the early 20 th Century this father to son roughness was typical. Roethke chooses playful words, such as “papa”, “romp” and “waltz”, help to give a pleasant tone to the poem, even if the actions are somewhat violent. In the first stanza, the narrator explains how the father had whiskey under his breath and that it “was not easy” to deal with him drunk. Although this alcoholism brought hardships for the young
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Unformatted text preview: boy, he still hung on like death, possibly foreshadowing his fathers death when he was a teenager. The waltzing is somewhat of a playful word that does not incite hard feelings or abuse. Roethke continues to use playful words in the second stanza when he says, We romped until the pans / Slid from the kitchen shelf. The word romped is used to refer to a rough play, somewhat similar to the rough housing of young boys over a game. The narrator is describing his rough relationship in a light way because he misses his father, and he still clings to him no matter how difficult it was. The last stanza proves that the abuse is mere horsing around and that at the end of the day narrator still clings to his fathers shirt. The last two lines show that he feels safe with his father and that he misses him now that he is dead....
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2011 for the course ENGLISH 1010 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '10 term at UConn.

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