My papa’s Waltz by Roethke is a poem that is a famous poem among poem lovers mainly because of the controversy of what the poem is about. Roethke uses an iambic trimeter in the poem. The lines in the poem have three iambic feet. There are three stressed syllables in every line in the poem, my papa’s Waltz.
Waltz is a dance performed by two people rhythmically turning around and has three beats. I believe this could be the reason Roethke choose the iambic trimeter as the meter to use for the poem. Similarly, the iambic trimeter provides musicality to the poem, which makes the poem interesting to listen to or read. Hence the iambic trimester is appropriate for the poem. The meter also impacts the subject of the poem by setting the tone of the poem. The tone can be said to be partly light and playful; hence the iambic trimeter helps reduce the reading pace.
The subject of My Papa’s Waltz is family relations. It is precisely about a moment between a father and son and the relationship between them. The rhythm in the poem helps to bring out the meaning of the poem. Together with a regular rhyme, the rhythm creates a steady flow by providing consistent patterns in the stressing of syllables in words.
The meaning of the poem can be confusing. Some readers describe it as a poem of abuse, violence, and neglect from a father to son. Others say the poem is a happy and nostalgic poem where a son recalls the good moment and relationship between them and the father. The poem is about a moment in the family. The family has both fear and happiness. The relationship between the father and son is built on both fear and love.
The poet uses craft elements such as symbolism, setting, similes, and imagery to bring out the meaning of the poem. First, the poem was written during a time when drinking was, and child punishment was normalized. Hence, one could conclude that the drunkenness of the father was a normal thing but also caused fear for the child. The world waltz in the poem is a symbol which means a graceful dance between two people. As sensitive and debatable as it comes out, Waltz, in the poem, can be used to represent the relationship between the two. As the poem begins, the child is frightened by the state and stench of whiskey from his father’s breath. However, he hangs on him and tries to waltz with him despite it being not very easy. The mother does not approve of the mess their dance is creating in her kitchen. However, she remains either because of fear or understands the bond between the two. The silence from the mother can be interpreted to show the power a father had in a family during the time the poem was written. The poet uses the simile ‘I hung on like death’ to show how desperate the child was to spend time with the father despite it being at night, and his father is drunk. Through imagery the reader is able to create a mental picture of the events in the poem. As they dance, the buckle of his father’s belt scarps the child, but he still clings onto his dad. Although his father was a drunk, the son tries to remember the memory in a metrical way.
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