The poem my papa’s waltz my Theodore Roethke is a famous 20th century American poet. His poems are typically woven with lots of imagery and have intricate rhyme schemes. This poem is about a young boys intimate relationship with his father. I think the poet is the speaker of the poem and he’s sharing his own experience with the readers through his poem. The first stanza is all about how his drunken father has just returned home after a long hard day of work.
He is in the mood for celebration and grabs his son and begins to forcefully drag him into a waltz. We know that the father was too drunk to realize that he was hurting his own son by the enjambment “the whisky on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy. ” The boy is not enjoying this brutal dance with his father and is scared yet he is clinging on out of pure fear, “hung on like death”, that he may get hurt if he leaves.
This kind of behavior from his father is probably a very common thing and he is weary of what may happen when he leaves his father. In the second stanza one of the main things that hit me is how the mother even after seeing her son being forced so brutally by the father says nothing. This house is probably a male dominant house, as she doesn’t have the courage to interfere between her husband and son. She knows that he is not intentionally harming her son but cant control himself.
We know that the father is a hard working manual laborer by his “battered knuckle” he probably doesn’t mind drinking because he has had a long and tough day at work. The boy is really small and probably reaches just up to his fathers waist which is why whenever his father is not careful enough he hurts the son unintentionally. As they danced his father began to affectionately pat his head, as even then in his drunken state he was just having a little fun with his son, and without realizing it he kept hurting his son.
In the end he is a father after all and dutifully puts his son to sleep who was still hanging on to him. This gesture shows us that even through the drunkenness he still loves his son a lot and the fact that his son never lets go is symbolic of their special bond, which reassures the son through his father is abusing him. The poem has a rhyme scheme of “ab ab” There is a lot of visual imagery in this poem and it makes me remember a time when I was that small and dancing with my father.
When I read the poem I can see them “romping” all over the house and dropping the gleaming pots. I can visualize that father’s big build and the lean boy being brutally pushes along. The sweet image of him being put to bed is heart melting. The main theme of the poem is the underlying love between the father and the son, which has been depicted so brutally and yet has the capacity to seem tender to us. It has the quality of a paradox of his fathers love coming out through such rough actions.