Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Papa's Waltz

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.


  1. I totally have heard this before, about it being a drunk, abusive father, and I think it's a fair interpretation. But I always read it as though the father is drunk and literally waltzing his son, maybe just a little roughly. The mother's disapproving looks I read as being at the father's drunken clumsiness and the knocking over of things. Interesting though, to see how people interpret this.

  2. Samsies! When I first read it I didn't look much into it but after another read through I came across the same eerie revelation. I would be interested in knowing what are your thought on the gender of the narrator?

  3. It really came off as an abusive father to me, even the first time around reading it. He mentions death, dizziness, uneasiness, all negative words. And then the part that really gave it away for me was the "My right ear scraped a buckle."


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