Analysis of The Poetic Conventions in "My Papa's Waltz"
This essay analyzes the poetic conventions used in Theodore Roethke's lyrical sonnet, "My Papa's Waltz", to argue the perceived meaning. Before we dive into the analysis, the presenting of the scansion is crucial.
The whis(key on(your breath
Could make(a small(boy dizzy;
But I(hung on(like death:
Such walt(zing was(not easy.
We romped(until(the pans
Slid from(the kit(chen shelf;
My mo(ther's coun(tenance
The hand(that held(my wrist
Was bat(tered on(one knuckle;
At e(very step(you missed
My right(ear scraped(a buckle.
You beat(time on(my head
With a palm(caked hard(by dirt,
Then waltzed(me off(to bed
Still cling(ing to(your shirt.Ã¯Â¿Â½
We like to categorize people and relationships as black or white, but every person and every relationship is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The poem, "My Papa's Waltz", underscores that argument; it portrays a father who cannot be called an ideal parent, but neither can he be labeled as a bad Dad.
His manners are not the gentlest, and perhaps he drinks too much, but his enthusiasm and desire to spend time with his son somehow make-up for those imperfections. However, the core of the poem is the illustration of the pain and pleasure the son goes through during the romping around the house with his heavy-handed father. The boy despises the smell of whiskey, and feels anxious about his father's rough demeanor; at the same time he enjoys the connection with his father and the thrill of playing with him. To relay this blend of emotions, Roethke masterfully crafts the poem by juxtaposing contradictory images and words, using a rhythm that represents the improvised waltz of the inebriated father.
Paraphrasing "My Papa's Waltz" is stripping each line of its many possible interpretations and, with distaste, cloaking it with a one-dimensional...