Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"My Papa's Waltz" Response (final draft)

I read “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke in class for the first time a few weeks ago, and almost immediately I liked it. Though I enjoyed many aspects of the poem, the thing I liked the most, and found the most interesting about the poem was how the poem appears to have different meanings. Some people in my class when we first read it believed that it was about a boy being abused by his drunk father. Others, like myself, interpreted the poem as simply a narrative about a young boy waltzing and playing with his dad. The main reason I believe this is: the father could possibly not have been drunk in the first place.
My group and I believed that the father in the poem may not have been drunk. The majority of my class said that he was, and I can sort of understand why. After all, the first two lines of the poem are:The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy…” Many people immediately thought that this line meant that the father was drunk. I did too, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that though it is still a possibility that the father is drunk, he may not be. No where in the poem does it state how drunk he is. He could possibly just have been drinking a little, not enough to actually be drunk.
      The second line states that it is enough whiskey to make a small boy dizzy. The boy is most likely standing very close to his father since they are waltzing, so it’s not like he can smell the whiskey from far away. Also,  the amount of whiskey, or just alcohol in general that it takes a little kid to feel dizzy is not a lot at all. I remember when I was really young feeling dizzy standing near my dad if he had drunk maybe a glass or less of alcohol. Just because a little kid feels dizzy standing right next to his or her parent who had been drinking, it doesn’t mean the parent is necessarily intoxicated.
       In the second stanza, there is this line:We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf…”
A lot of my classmates again presented this as evidence the father was drunk. I saw it a different way. I think that just because the dad is knocking things down while dancing doesn’t mean he is drunk; it is quite possible that the father is just clumsy, or maybe a bad dancer. 
      This is a line in the third stanza: “…every step you missed, my right ear scraped a buckle.”
Again, many classmates thought that in this line, the little boy was getting hit by his dad. The boy is most likely very small, likely not taller than his dad’s waist. Maybe, since they are dancing, his ear is just scraping against his dad’s belt buckle.
There is no evidence in "My Papa's Waltz" that the father is intoxicated and beating his son. Then again, there is never a wrong way to interpret a poem. Most poems are written as mysteries: authors want you to have several different perspectives of the poem. Though I have my opinions about the meaning of "My Papa's Waltz", I can see the other side of the argument in some ways, and I understand that there are many more ways to see the poem.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shakespeare Extra Credit

I had a very hard time trying to think of something good to write about. I read about four detailed articles about Shakespeare's life. While reading, I found myself focusing on specific parts of Shakespeare's life: his childhood and his missing years. I tried to connect the two together while reading; I wondered if maybe it was something that happened in his childhood that caused him to disappear for over seven years, and also if either of those could have been what inspired him to write. After doing research on specifically those two parts in Shakespeare's life, I ended up with answers, but even more questions.
William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564.  His father was a leather merchant, his mother was a local land heiress. They were both well respected.  Shakespeare attended a grammar school in Stratford, where the majority of his lessons learned there involved Latin: everything from Latin authors to writing Latin-like stories and compositions. When Shakespeare was 18, he married Anne Hathaway, who soon after gave birth to three children.  The little information known about his childhood makes his childhood appear to good; he got at least some part of an education, his parents were respected, he grew up, got married, and had a family.
Not long after his children were born, 21 year old Shakespeare disappeared, then reappeared in London seven years later. No one was exactly sure where he went, or what he was doing in that time, though some people say (and I completely agree) that perhaps he was seeking out adventure. He was still basically a kid when he got married (18 years old.) He had most likely not even been out of his hometown yet. It is likely that Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time, was scared that he would be stuck in Stratford with his family forever.
In 1616, a man named Richard Davies offered a theory of where Shakespeare was in the seven years he was missing. He claims that Shakespeare hunted for animals like rabbits and deer on property that belonged to Thomas Lucy. It is rumor that Lucy, after many times of catching Shakespeare on his property, grew angry and tormented him by having him imprisoned and whipping him. This made me think that maybe some of Shakespeare's work/story ideas came from all of those days he was being tormented. Maybe some of his tragedies were based off of the long days he spent in prison. This lead me to another idea: Shakespeare wrote hundreds of sonnets, and many stories too. Maybe some of them are based off of the experiences Shakespeare had in his missing years. Maybe his inspiration to write came from the adventures young Shakespeare look for, and most likely found. Though the story Davies told is most likely false, these theories about his inspiration are very possibly true.
Today, many centuries later, people still try to uncover mysteries about William Shakespeare and his life. Learning about Shakespeare's life really made me think about his writing in a very different way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Revised Response: My Papa's Waltz, draft 1

"My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke is a great poem. In class, we discussed what the poem could be about, and we concluded that "My Papa's Waltz" has more than one meaning. Many people in my class assumed that the poem was about a drunk father beating up or being to rough with his small song. I believed that this poem is about just what it appears to be about on the outside: a son waltzing with his dad. During the debate, I was in a group that was neutral. Even though we were supposed to be able to see both sides of the poem, we all agreed that the poem was not about a boy being beaten by his dad. Our first point was that the father may not have been drunk, he could have just drunken a little. And yes, in the poem it does say "the whiskey on your breath can make a small boy dizzy," but it is not like it takes  a whole lot of alcohol in the air to make a young boy feel dizzy, just a little bit would be enough. In the second stanza, the speaker of the poem talks about how "they romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf." Again, my group thought that this does not mean he was drunk; it is possible that the father is just clumsy, or maybe a bad dancer. In the next stanza, there is a line that says: "...every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle." The majority of the class thought that in this line, the father is actually hitting the son. Though this is possible, I think that since the boy is small, and might not be taller than his father (who he is dancing with)'s waist, the line may just mean that since his dad is clumsy and missing steps, his ear scrapes against his dad's buckle.
 Though I have my opinions, I can see the other side of the argument. This poem may be about a kid getting beat up by his dad. If this is true, I think that it is possible the child doesn't even know he is being abused. He, after all, is very young, so it is possible that he is not aware of what is father is doing; thus adding a third possible meaning to "My Papa's Waltz."
  This poem could be a metaphor for getting beat up by a drunk father, a poem from the point of view of a little kid who is un aware he is getting abused, or a poem simply about a son waltzing and playing around the house with his dad. It could be other things too, it all depends on how you read it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Response to Angela's Ashes

Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish catholic Childhood.
When I first read this line from "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt, I paused to think about my childhood. I had never had thought that my childhood was miserable. Not perfect, but not miserable. I didn't believe that any childhood could really genuinely be miserable. That is, until I read "Angela's Ashes."
Angela's Ashes is a memoir about Frank McCourt's childhood in Limerick, Ireland. There, he dealt with starvation, illness, deaths of siblings, a drunk father, a difficult school, taunting classmates, and terrible conditions, but he still manages to tell the story of it in such an amusing, lively way. I did not understand how someone who had been through a childhood so horrible could be so happy about it. While I was thinking about this, my brother asked me a question:
"Why do bad things happen to good people?"
I wasn't exactly sure how to answer that question at first. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that if everything was always perfect, we wouldn't have any reason to become better people. After considering that some more, I thought again about my childhood. Every childhood is miserable, maybe just not as miserable as Frank McCourt's. To quote Angela's Ashes once again:
"The happy childhood is hardly worth your while."
When Frank McCourt grew up and came back to New York (where he was born), he was able to appreciate how much he had in life all the more after going through such tough times. He could finally  appreciate all of the little things he had gained since his experiences in Limerick. In some ways, misery really does makes people better. Without misery, there would be nothing to appreciate about life.
Angela's Ashes is one of my favorite books.