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This My Papa’s Waltz analysis essay examines the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke published in 1942. It provides a summary of the poem, describing the action of what takes place; it then gives an analysis of the work, discusses the characters and the main theme of the poem; and finally provides an assessment of the poem’s use of imagery and symbolism. The essay shows that Roethke’s poem is, ultimately, an ode to his father’s merriment and should be considered as an affectionate recollection of the author’s childhood rather than a stern rebuke full of resentment that some readers might be tempted to take it for.
Theodore Roethke’s 16-line, 4 stanza poem tells the story of a small boy’s father waltzing him to bed. The father is a laborer—a working class man—whose breath smells of whiskey. The father joyfully—and with much romping—drunkenly dances with his son, clearly…… [Read More]
In his poem "My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke describes the antics of an alcoholic father with eerie imagery. This brief four stanza poem conveys a tone of sorrow and sympathy for a young boy and his abusive father. Roethke employs a considerable amount of irony with his choice of language, for a waltz normally evokes joyful dance and lively music. In the case of "My Papa's Waltz," however, the dance is dysfunctional and dangerous. While there is no overt mentioning of child or wife battering, the poet suggests that the waltz approaches child abuse. With words like "death" and "beat," Roethke hints at actions without blatantly describing them. The poet manages to create a definite mood through subtle selection of words, a simple rhyme scheme, and poignant imagery.
Significant poetic features of "My Papa's Waltz" include rhyme, meter, diction, and imagery. "My Papa's Waltz" contains four-line stanzas with…… [Read More]
And the phrase "I hung on like death" that denotes a child's fear of falling or tension. To the child "such waltzing was not easy." The phrase, too, "you beat time on my head" tells us something of the child's height, as well as the father's strength.
The description about the hand is an evocative phrase. And 'sliding' is again consistent with the dance movements of a waltz. The waltz is a form of rough horsing, and Roetke shows both in his poem, with tension jostling fun.
The rhythmic romp of the waltz can be felt in the poem's iambic trimetrical quatrains..
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy." (lines 1-4)
But although the whisky is mentioned, the father does not come off as a drunk. The poem is a little field of energy with…… [Read More]
Imagery in Theodore oethke's "My Papa's Waltz"
A poem's imagery is one of the most effective literary tools an author can use to better communicate the general theme of the poem itself to the reader. Imagery has the ability to transport a reader from a desk in a classroom or a chair in the library and place them in a world of the poet's own choosing. Effective imagery removes the boundaries that so often exist between a poem and its reader who may be struggling to make a connection. Such powerful use of imagery can be seen in Theodore oethke's poem "My Papa's Waltz," in which oethke utilizes powerful imagery to place the reader into the young boy's shoes to view his father through his eyes and in a far greater and more complicated context.
oethke's poem communicates a theme of tension and unspoken abuses that go on within the…… [Read More]
In the American poet Theodore Roethke's poems "My Papa's altz," "Cuttings (Later)," and "Cuttings," ordinary aspects of the domestic environment, like a young child being taught to dance by his father or the routine pruning and cutting of plants, during springtime become life-lessons that I believe are not simply common to Roethke's earliest formative childhood experiences, but to all people. The physical objects and actions of the poems take on great symbolic significance, when funneled through the words of the poetic voice of Roethke. Dancing and pruning become rites of passage and religious actions, rather than everyday occurrences. Through such poetic images, Roethke underlines the fact that all experiences, from dancing to gardening can be both frightening and exhilarating, terrifying and religious, and joyous and important in the life of the poetic speaker.
In "My Papa's altz," the normally cheerful act of dancing, especially in a kitchen scene…… [Read More]
The Play as Literature
In an art form which imitates the lives of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, the star -- Kitty -- is a needy, insecure, and unstable actress. Putting the entire movie production at risk -- and her own reputation, as well -- her hysteria and fragile emotional state keep everyone on the edge of outright hostility. How can a world famous actress -- loved by millions -- not see what the rest of the world sees?
Flora, one of the star's acting coaches, makes several references to her emotional need for love, yet too often, "Love is the Great Impossibility." The well-meaning intentions of svengali-like coaches and a mild-mannered but well-respected writer husband do nothing to quell the fear living within Kitty's heart.
As Kitty lies prone and naked on her bed, prostrate with her own fear and power, Jerome -- one of several acting…… [Read More]
Papa's altz": Hints of Child Abuse or Suggestions of the Pains of a Hard Life?
Theodore Roethke's piece, "My Papa's altz," is a perfect example of the different interpretations that can come from a single work of poetry. The phrasing, at times, suggest that there are instances of child abuse, while at the same time, others could claim that it is simply a glimpse into a moment of time that a father spends with his son prior to bed time -- whisky simply being a numbing to the pains of life. Kerry Michael ood describes it best when he says that, "Roethke would be pleasantly surprised to know that his poem has become a generational litmus test - an almost sure-fire means of determining the age of the poem's readers" (ood, 1). Members of "Generation X," along with those who can relate to this era, have a tendency to take…… [Read More]
Beginning a My Papa’s Waltz analysis essay can appear like a formidable task, as the poem is so simple, yet so enigmatic. Luckily, writing such an analysis essay can help you build a higher level of appreciation for the poem, as it can show you the layers of meaning embedded throughout each line. Close scrutiny of this poem can demonstrate the power that a precise word choice can wield in communicating feelings and visuals. In this piece, the words work together to create a picture of tension, uncertainty and danger. Written over fifty years ago, My Papa’s Waltz is still an example of writing that can comment upon the intricacies between parent and child.
My Papa’s Waltz is one of Theodore Roethke’s most famous poems, written in 1948 and included in the seminal volume The Lost Son and Other Poems. This is a collection of poems that documents…… [Read More]
The speaker of Theodore Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” reflects on his abusive father. Using an ABAB CDCD rhyme scheme and fixed meter, the poet underscores the main motifs of music and dance. The titular waltz is a structured dance set to a specific type of music. Constrained by the form of the waltz, the speaker seems to have internalized guilt and complicity in his father’s behavior by suggesting that it takes two people to waltz. His “clinging”(line 12) and having “hung on like death” (line 3) add another dimension of pathos to an already heart-wrenching story. The reader will protest the child having any responsibility for the father’s behavior, adding to the dramatic tension in the poem. Music and dance symbolism also add a potent degree of irony to the poem, as a waltz is typically associated with fine art and not with domestic violence. The subtle cues in…… [Read More]
My Papa's Waltz
The poem My Papa's Waltz is about the relationship between an abusive father and his child, who is the narrator and the point of perspective. The little boy is trying to hold onto his father literally in the poem, but the poem is likely written from the perspective of an older person, looking back at his childhood. He is trying to hold onto the love for his father, despite his father being an abusive alcoholic.
The waltz in the poem is of course not relating to a dance. The waltz is the metaphor for the father's movements when he's been drinking, movements that are described in terms like "every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle" and "you beat time on my head." The title adds meaning to the poem because a dance is like a routine, movements that are repeated, and the narrator is…… [Read More]
These are far different ways of symbolizing similar coping skills, but they do have many things in common. Both poems use symbolism to mean more to the reader, and they make the reader think about their own life, too. They do this by painting vivid word pictures.
Imagery in these poems is very important in getting the details across. Frost uses the peaceful image of a snowy wood to contrast with the narrator's clearly busy life. Frost writes, "He will not see me stopping here / To watch his woods fill up with snow" (Frost). The reader can almost see the image of the woods at dusk, and the silent falling flakes of snow. Who would not want to linger there? oethke's poem also uses vivid imagery to make the poem stick in the mind of the reader. He writes, "The hand that held my wrist / Was battered on…… [Read More]
Family Unit Explored in "Papa's altz"
Family life is a complicated thing and while Hollywood might want us to think the family is a happy, cohesive unit, life proves it wrong. Reflecting life and its wide array of unexpected and unforeseen incidents, family life is a combination of the best and worst that life offers. Family life, at best, is bittersweet and "My Papa's altz," by Theodore Roethke demonstrates this point perfectly. Told from a child's point-of-view, the poem touches on how fear and love can exist at the same time.
The various elements of the family unit emerge in this poem. The tone of the poem reveals the speaker's mixed emotions toward his father. Through sensory descriptions, he allows readers to experience those emotions. For example, he smells whiskey on his father's breath, while still hanging onto him "like death" (Roethke 3). This is frightening when considered from a…… [Read More]
Papa's Waltz," the speaker mentions the booze on his father's breath, strong enough to make a "small boy dizzy," (Line 2). Theodore Roetke then opts to use the word "death" in the third line, creating instantly a tone of despair. The titular waltzing refers to the child having to dance around his father's abuse. He is also "waltzed off to bed," (Line 15). The irony of using the term "waltz" throughout adds complexity to the poem's tone. Waltzing is an odd choice of metaphor, because waltzing is dancing: something that is inherently joyful or happy. The "beating time" is not actually beating time to music but beating a child (Line 15). By using the metaphor of waltzing to discuss domestic violence, the poet draws even greater attention to the serious nature of the subject.
Simile and metaphor allow Sharon Olds to discuss sexuality and emotional intimacy. The first simile that…… [Read More]
Robet Hayden's "The Whipping," and Theodoe Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" descibe child abuse. Both poets have simila appoaches to this weighty and sensitive subject matte. Hayden and Roethke avoid cliches, self-ighteousness, o judgmentalism, instead choosing to focus on the complex psychology undelying these issues. Howeve, neithe poet is willing to ovelook the need fo compassion and sympathy, even when dealing with abusive paents. This isn't to say that Hayden and Roethke ae insensitive o apologetic; quite the contay, both poets convey the pain and suffeing associated with child abuse. Using exquisite lyics and diction, the geneal theme is easy to figue out in both these poems. Howeve, Hayden's is told fom the pespective of an onlooke o neighbo, while Roethke's poem is told in fist peson, by the abused child. "The Whipping" is witten in fee vese without hymes, while "My Papa's Waltz contains a hyme scheme. In spite of…… [Read More]
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" ends with the family being executed by the Misfit, a murderous outlaw. Although O'Connor's story is evidently supposed to be humorous, it gives the reader pause to note that the family will die without ever exchanging a kind word. There are different types of family violence: the somewhat positive violence of the Roethke poem that makes the boy adore his father at the expense of his mother vs. The carelessness and cruelty in the O'Connor story, which arises as a result of a lack of respect and the superficiality of the modern family. Family relationships do not necessarily create a state of understanding. In the story, the most transcendent moment of grace occurs between two strangers, before one kills the other, as physical violence makes the grandmother appreciate her time on earth. "His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother's head…… [Read More]
Silverstein and Roethke
The concept of perception plays a major role in the poems "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein and "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke. In "Where the Sidewalk Ends," Silverstein looks to the future and contends that there is something unknown and possibly better beyond what he can see, whereas the narrator in Roethke's poem looks to the past to remember a time when he had no worries. Despite the differences in perspective, each writer is able to demonstrate how the narrator sees a glimpse of light in what would otherwise be considered a dark situation.
Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" aims to have the viewer look beyond what he or she knows is there. Silverstein's repetition and anaphora of the word "and" helps to show that there are an endless amount of things that exist beyond the proverbial sidewalk. By repeatedly using the word…… [Read More]
Oedipus the King" by Sophocles, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, and "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore oethke. Specifically, it will interpret and illustrate how the theme of parents may be seen in these three pieces.
Each of these pieces concern the family, but not the normal family unit most people expect. Each of the parents in these three pieces obviously contributes to the lives of their children, but not necessarily in the positive ways most parents are expected to contribute to the growth and abilities of their progeny. Their children grow in spite of their parents, rather than because of them.
The child in "My Papa's Waltz" has fond memories of his father, as this passage shows. "We romped until the pans / Slid from the kitchen shelf;" (oethke 880). However, as with many childhood memories, these views are distorted. Clearly, the father in the piece is a drunkard, and…… [Read More]
Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell Without knowing that a ball turret is small place in a B-17, we would not understand the central metaphor analogizing the mother's womb to the ball turret, which is essential to understanding that the poem is about the contrast between the warmth of a mother's love and the cold dehumanizing treatment of the "State" where he is just another soldier.
Common Ground by Judith Cofer Before reading the poem, the title seemed quite self-explanatory, I figured the poem would be about finding common ground between people, and in a sense it is, but the message, after reading the poem, is much starker. It is more about the inescapability of aging, the common links that tie generations as the young get old and realize the commonalities they share with their parents.
Hazel Tells LaVerne by Katharyn Machan Knowing the fairy tale helps…… [Read More]
Like Roethke and arren, Richard ilbur blends classicism and philosophy with humble images: "Throughout his career ilbur has shown, within the compass of his classicism, enviable variety. His poems describe fountains and fire trucks, grasshoppers and toads, European cities and country pleasures. All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection" ("Richard ilbur," Poets.org, 2010). Like Roethke, ilbur's use of nature tends to be personal, even though ilbur's diction is more formal and archaic in tone than "My Papa's altz." For example, in "The riter," ilbur writes of his young daughter, writing a story in her room, and compares her effort to chasing a frightened starling out of her room: "It is always a matter, my darling, / of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish / hat I wished you before, but harder."…… [Read More]
The choice cannot be repudiated or duplicated, but one makes the choice without foreknowledge, almost as if blindly. After making the selection, the traveler in Frost's poem says, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back" (14-15). And at the end, as one continues to encounter different forks along the way, the endless paths have slim chance of ever giving the traveler a second choice. One can see this as similar to Mrs. Mallard's change. As she looks out into the future, she sees endless possibilities for choice and nothing feels like she would ever return to the determinate state of marriage.
The final two lines of "The Road Not Taken" say, "I took the one less traveled by / and that has made all the difference" (19-20). Unlike in Chopin, the traveler determines to take the path. In Chopin, the path forces…… [Read More]
Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound and My Father's altz by Theodore Roethke
Ezra Pound's poem In the Station of the Metro and Theodore Roethke's poem My Father's altz both reflect the darker side of human nature. Though these works paint a very different picture, they each allude to the desperate conditions that we all face from time to time as human beings.
Pound's poem compares faces in the crowd at the metro to apparitions or ghosts, like petals on a wet black bough. The imagery evokes dark feelings of foreboding and death. It may be interpreted as a reminder that we are all born only to face the same inevitable end. The poem is constructed much like a Japanese haiku as is of only three lines. This simplicity adds to the poem's texture and adds power to the message. The reader is left to interpret the intent of…… [Read More]
The message of the poem is the longing for life and youth. In this case as well the images have a strong symbolical dimension, the light must be understood as life and youth, whereas the night as death and decay. Just as the title suggests it, there are people who will not easily accept their fate. "Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, / And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, / Do not go gentle into that good night" (Thomas, 10-12). Wild is a state of mind and the sun in flight is a symbol of freedom and creation. The imagery creates spiritual landscapes which unite the poet and the reader.
Shakespeare in his sonnet "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" makes a clear opposition between elements of nature and parts of the body of the woman he loves. On the…… [Read More]
e are consuming too many of our natural resources and our use of fossil fuels threaten the survival of our planet. The developing world seems to placing further strains upon the earth, with no signs of abatement in population growth or industrialization. e are torn apart by nationalism rather than united as a species, in the Middle East, in Africa, and Eastern Europe. e have more material goods, but less spiritual satisfaction.
In answer to all of these questions, we must look to the persona of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi, first and foremost, grappled with issues afflicting the region, and the cultures and faiths that are most troubling to the geopolitical crisis of today, namely the tensions between the Muslim and Hindu populations of East Asia. He also provided many solutions to all peoples, not just his own. His philosophy of nonviolence inspired Martin Luther King Jr. He also embraced people…… [Read More]
Distinctly from John Updike's teenage character Sammy in his short story "A&P," who realizes he has just become an adult; Connie as suddenly realizes she feels like a kid again. Now she wishes the family she usually hates having around could protect her. The actions of the fearsome Arnold, are foreshadowed early on, when he warns Connie, the night before, after first noticing her outside a drive-in restaurant: "Gonna get you, baby" (paragraph 7). From then on, Arnold's quest to "get" Connie feels, to Connie and the reader, in its dangerous intensity, much like the predatory evilness of malevolent fairy tale characters, e.g., the Big Bad olf, or the evil stepmothers (and/or stepsisters) that fix on Snow hite, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and other innocent young female characters as prey. And Connie at the end of "here Are You Going, here Have You Been" wishes, like Little Red Riding Hood, Snow…… [Read More]
Visions of Death as Part of the Life Cycle
While the terms "life" and "death" are considered to be polar opposites by most standards, some authors view them as part of the same infinite cycle. For writers like Emily Dickinson and Jean hys, death is merely a transitional stage; it is not the end of existence any more than life is the beginning. Evidence of this view of death as a part of the ongoing cycle of life can be seen most prominently in Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" and in hys' "I Used to Live Here Once."
The most notable similarity between Dickinson's poem and hys' short story is that both of the narrators watch children play in the splendor of the natural world while they themselves are no longer a physical part of that world. The primary difference between these two works is that Dickinson…… [Read More]
Going further with the analysis, it could be stated that the Irish get answers to their dilemmas from their own cultural identity (which is nourished by the best values).
The previous idea of Ireland being eternal is supported by the view according to which its history stretches to immemorial times: "Every layer they strip/Seems camped on before./The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage./The wet centre is bottomless" (Heaney, 25-28). The fact that the centre is wet suggests the constant and eternal vitality of existence's root. The values of the people living in ogland can not get weary because they have such a solid source.
If ogland is the place where the poet comes from, in Yeats' case, Innisfree is the place where he wishes to escape. The environment is simple and just like in the poem analyzed above, the island is a symbol of freedom. In addition, the isolation allows the…… [Read More]
Alienation in Different orks of Literature
Alienation is a common theme in many works of literature -- in many genres, across many periods, and of many different forms. The idea that one individual cannot truly know or understand another, or that the rules of society necessarily force those that question those rules to somehow be outside of that society, has been around since the time of Homer and certain of his characters. It can also be seen in more modern works of poetry, short stories, and dramatic texts, from a variety of authors writing in different times and with very different perspectives.
illiam Blake's poem late eighteenth century poem "The Tyger" does not deal with humanity's alienation from itself, or individuals' alienation from each other, but rather addresses the alienation of humanity from the divine. Describing the tiger as "fearful" and asking what "distant deeps or skies" the tiger's maker…… [Read More]
Death in "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night"
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is one of Dylan Thomas's most recognizable poems. ritten for Thomas's dying father, this poem is 19 lines and is structured like a villanelle where only two sounds are rhymed. Through the use of imagery, Thomas is able to vividly explore the theme of death and resistance to it.
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" is full of rebellious undertones with the opening line setting the tone for the rest of the poem. In the poem, Thomas urges his father, and others, to fight against death saying that "old age should burn and rave at close of day" and that a person should not give in so easily to Death's demands (line 2). Thomas continues to describe "wise men" who "at their end know dark is right" do not give…… [Read More]
She also learns, too late, that the jewels and the life she coveted so long ago was a sham. Hence, the symbolic nature of the necklace itself -- although it appears to have great value, it is in fact only real in appearance, not in reality and the heroine is incapable of assessing the false necklace's true worth.
The tale of "The Necklace" conveys the moral that what is real, the replacement she returned to Madame Forstier, can be won not with beauty but with hard work, sweat, and toil. Like "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Necklace" revolves around the use of irony and a single, symbolic element, exemplified in the title object that works throughout the tale, using the literary device of irony, to reveal the protagonist's moral character. That final revelation engineered by the title object makes the story compelling, even if both protagonists may seem morally repugnant. The…… [Read More]