My Papa's Waltz

Words: 1106
Pages: 5

n his poem, My Papa’s Waltz, Theodore Roethke imaginatively twist and twirls the waltz dance into a powerful metaphor for the love between a father and his son. In the short but hard to grasp poem, Roethke writes from the son's perspective, and paints us a bittersweet portrait (perhaps self portrait) of a complicated relationship that is sometimes violent, yet very intimate and deeply loving for the son.
At first glance, “My Papa's Waltz” is just a short poem detailing the early memories of a young child and his father waltzing around the house. The father and son duo go from waltzing to romping around the house, causing pans to fall and missing steps, causing the father to slightly hurt his son. It is a waltz that is robust and uncoordinated,
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Roethke writes about his father’s battered knuckles, perhaps there is tight grip on his hand, the father is trying to physically and emotionally hold on to his dearly loved son as strong as he can. The father is hurting his son, however it is not intentional, and he holds on harder because he does not want the son to let go. Neither of them let go of the dance, and even when the father misses a step and the son’s ear is “scraped by a buckle (Roethke 12),” the son does not let go. Perhaps the son knows that his father’s mistakes may hurt him but he knows it is not intentional. Whether the father’s belt buckle scratches the son, or he “beat time” on his head with his “palm caked hard by dirt (Roethke 14)”, the son never loses affection. Throughout the poem, there is no evidence that the son is disturbed by the father’s behavior. The reader must also realize that the relationship has a cycle of abuse and forgiveness. The waltz, with it graceful turns and roundabouts is a metaphor for this abusive cycle, this waltz is not a one-time thing, it is something that happens often, probably when the father gets drunk.
My Papa’s Waltz reminds me a lot about the movie Saving Mr. Banks produced by Walt Disney Studios and starring Tom Hanks. The movie revolves around the difficult time Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) had in directing and producing his landmark movie Mary Poppins because the Mary Poppins book series author, P. L Travers was stubborn in changing anything from her original books. Walt Disney finds out how P. L Travers father was an alcoholic whose personal mistakes ruined his whole family.