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My Papa's Waltz Essay

1139 words - 5 pages

“My Papa’s Waltz” is a poem written by Theodore Roethke describing a son’s memory of his drunken father. At the start of the poem, one might assume that it is a poem about how the father beats the son, but it does not specifically say that it is about domestic violence. It simply states that the father was drunk and that he and his son were “waltzing” around the house. To some, the act of “waltzing” is an act of love, despite the father being drunk. To others, it could mean that the father was abusive and was harming his son. As one continues reading the poem, one might question whether the poem is about violence at all.
The wording of the poem is general. It does not state exactly what is ...view middle of the document...

It was common for men to drink after work back in the day, so it is possible that the father may have simply gotten drunk but not violent. For this reason, it is possible that this poem is not about violence at all.
The poem does not say much about the father. However, the poem does state that his knuckle was battered. This could mean that the father has a history of violence. He could have been abusing his wife or son, punching the wall just for the sake of punching it, or has gotten into fights outside the house. In the poem, it states that the son held onto his father “But I hung on like death” while they waltzed. The father could have grabbed his son and started to attempt to waltz in his intoxicated state. The final thing the poem says about the father is “With a palm caked hard by dirt” (. We could assume that the father works at a job that involves, literally, getting his hands dirty. Moving stacks of papers is not going to get his hands dirty like that. Physical labor has to be involved so he could be working in construction, a mechanic, or landscaping where he is forced to get his hands dirty like that.
Some of the things written in the poem makes one assume that this is a poem describing domestic violence to the son from the father. Some of the wording used is “But I hung on like death” (3), “We romped until the pans / Slide from the kitchen shelf” (5-6) “You beat time on my head / With a palm caked hard by dirt” (13-14). The wording used makes it seem like its abuse, especially the “You beat time on my head / With a palm caked hard by dirt” (13-14). Nicole Leilani is right to argue that this poem is about violence. She states that the poem is “written to resemble a waltz, a dance that is traditional and elegant, yet this waltz is attended by a drunken man whose hands are dirty and beaten” (Leilani). It is very hard to read and interpret this without thinking this is child abuse.
The mother plays a role in how the poem is interpreted. According to Joseph Schaub, these two lines mean reveal a...

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