Theodore Roethke?s poem, ?My Papa?s Waltz? is a poem in which is hard to interpret. In a critique written by Dr. O?Conner, he states that the poem is telling how by looking at Roethke?s life that you could see that the poem was written not to see a small boy being abused by his father, but that, ?Roethke does seem to work into his poetry images of love mingled with fear and respect due to a proud and powerful Prussian father.? I can agree in the aspect that there is evidence that the father loved his son and that it was not child abuse but just a father and son having fun, but I also disagree in the aspect that the author intently wrote the poem so that one could read it and interpret in their own aspect.
O?Conner uses sever tactics within his critique, he uses Roethke?s life and compared it to the poem using it as a foundation of the poems origin.
He states that Roethke had a good relationship with his father, and that the poem is based off that. I feel that it is a good explanation of the poem, yet I feel that Roethke wrote the poem to be interpreted in any way that the reader feels fits them. Roethke uses examples of words and phrases that could be interpreted in any way, such examples as, ?But I hung on like death:?(line 3) O?Conner explains this, ?the boy ?hung on like death? not because he was terrified or feared for his life but because he was having fun and did not want to fall off,? But if one reads closely, the poem never states that the boy was holding on to his father. Though O?Conner has a point, if one reads that line some may see that the boy is holding on to a pole of some sort to keep his father from dragging him to beat him.
?The hand that held my wrist, Was battered on one knuckle?(lines 10-11) is explained by O?Conner, ?Roethke father?s hand would have been battered on one knuckle because of all the gardening and hard work involved in running a green house and not because he had been beating family members.? But again one could say that his knuckle was battered because he was had beaten a family member.
Works Cited Malkoff, Karl. Theodore Roethke. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.
Roethke, Theodore. ?My Papa?s Waltz.? The Norton Introduction to literature. 6th ed. Ed. Carl E. Bain, et al. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995. 769.