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.

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