A Positive and Negative Interpretation of "My Papa's Waltz"
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The paper examines Theodore Roethke's poem "My Papa's Waltz" and describes the father as a hard-working man coming home after a long day at his job, a happy drunk who is delighted to dance with his young son before he goes to bed. The paper also discusses a darker interpretation that can be inferred from this poem, however, and shows how there is perhaps more reason for the reader to believe that the poem is one about a drunken father abusing his child. According to this paper, the poem's interpretation is left up to the individual experience, since both interpretations could be correct.
From the Paper:"The poem begins, "The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy" (lines 1-2), which could lead one to consider that the father, a hard-working, perhaps blue-collar-type man, has returned home after stopping off at the bar after work. Whisky on the breath does not necessarily have to mean something negative but rather that it is a cultural thing (i.e., man works hard, man goes to the bar after work) - especially considering the time that the poem was written (the late 1940s). The narrator says that the scent from his breath could make a small boy dizzy (i.e., or drunk himself off the fumes). There is something sort of sweet about this statement. The boy has never had a drink. He can only smell the scent of it on his father's breath and he is aware of how strong it is.
"The father may be feeling a bit tipsy and so he decides to dance (waltz) around the room with his young son. The narrator says that he must hang on "like death" (line 3) in order to not fall. They romp around noisily and pans slide from the shelves, which of course makes the mother angry because she'll have to clean it up. "My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself" (lines 7-8). It's easy to see the late 1940s housewife standing in the kitchen watching the nonsense. She may be frowning in irritation at the mess, but she probably is thinking "boys will be boys.""
Cite this Poem Review:
A Positive and Negative Interpretation of "My Papa's Waltz" (2013, May 05) Retrieved May 25, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/poem-review/a-positive-and-negative-interpretation-of-my-papa-waltz-153166/
"A Positive and Negative Interpretation of "My Papa's Waltz"" 05 May 2013. Web. 25 May. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/poem-review/a-positive-and-negative-interpretation-of-my-papa-waltz-153166/>