A second read of this poem gave me a crazy realization, as I'm sure most people in this class, who are much smarter than me, already discovered. “My Papa’s Waltz”, can be read in a much different way than I originally saw. This is most likely not a loving father dancing with his child after a hard day at work, but a drunk father coming home and beating his child.
Key images like pans falling from shelves, knuckles, beatings and buckles scraping against the kids head make this a very sad read. I think it’s really interesting how Theodore Roethke uses the whole idea of a dance as a mask for the beating. It works really well, and I’m sure there are people who would never pick up on it.
Of course, it’s also very possible that I’M the one reading into it, and that this is in fact only about a dance and not about a father coming home and hitting his child. This could very well be a father who has had a hard day, and just wants to spend a little time with his kid before he goes to sleep. The mother’s frown could very well be one of happiness at seeing the way her family loves each other.
But I seriously doubt it.