My Papa's Waltz By Theodore Roethke

440 Words2 Pages
“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke is about a son who still loves his father, even through his dad’s alcoholism and abuse. The author uses slant rhyme to demonstrate that something is amiss in what could easily be interpreted as just a poem about a loving father-son relationship. The father’s alcoholism is evident from the beginning of the poem, in the lines “The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy” (1-2). This shows that during their “waltz”, the father is drunk enough that just smelling his breath could be enough to pass on some of the effects of alcohol. The evidence of abuse in the poem is subtler, but small words and phrases suggest it. For example, the author writes that the father “beat” (3) time on his son’s head, which has a double meaning as both ‘to tap out a rhythm’ and ‘to physically hit someone’.…show more content…
The author never mentions abuse outright, instead choosing to be more indirect, possibly to show how children who are being abused often won’t speak up about what is happening to them. Roethke conveys the feeling of abuse through words with double meanings, but also through poetic devices, like slant rhymes. Instead of true rhymes, which might make the poem sound more like a dance, the author chose to use slant rhymes, such as the rhyming of “dizzy” (2) and “easy” (4). This makes the poem have a rhythm similar to that of a dance, but also seem slightly off, like something isn’t quite right. That feeling, combined with the wordplay, are what gives the impression that the son is being abused. It is also true that the son still loves his father, even with the
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