Elements in “My Papa Waltz” By Theodore


Literature works by different authors use different styles and choiceof elements to relay the message intended. The styles and elementschoices depend on the authors taste. The elements such as languagechoice content and form are used together in literature work or oneat a time. In his literature work ‘My Papa`s Waltz,` TheodoreRoethke uses different elements all together to deliver his messagein the poem. The poem is set as a memory of a son of how his fatherused to be as he was growing up (Gale, 2007). The poem is set byheavy use of imagery. The effect is well seen as different leadersend up with different interpretations as they utilize their imageryconclusions. This paper will concentrate on the use of imagery,language and symbolism as used by Theodore in his work “my papawaltz.”

The poem’s heading is a big kick start to the readers. Waltz in itsnormal state is a dance. Walt is the beautiful dance shared betweentwo people in one mindset. Thus, the reader starts the poem with theimage of a poem written in a friendly environment (Rukhaya, 2010). Anenvironment whereby: people are of the same mindset, happy and withno conflicts. The image, however, is contrary to what Theodoreintentions are. His real nature of the poem is a set of a differentenvironment with a rough passage. In the first lines of the poem, ittalks of drunken parent. As would be the normal case, drunken parentsare not exactly the friendly and loving ones. They react in differentways when they are drunk.

The poem also uses strong language. The choice of strong words isdepicted especially ‘death’ to show how helpless the son feels(Gale, 2007). The language use leaves the reader with the image of arough environment. Death causes fear. Though the author could as welluse ‘fear,` he chooses to use ‘death’ which is far beyond thenormal human fear to show how enormous the fear is. The son clings tohis father’s shirt while they were waltzing in the house as a wayof dealing with the fear. The clinging to the shirt as a way ofcomforting himself from the rough dance creates an image to thereaders too of love. Though the son is scared, he also finds some‘joy’ of a father to son relation while they dance. They bondduring the rough dance (Rukhaya, 2010). The bond, however, isironical. Irony is seen as the dance is not of the same mindset. Thefather and the son are not on the same pace as the father in thefirst place is drunk and rough yet again the son enjoys since thefather is a rough man who does not hug his children. The poem alsoshows aspect of love. The father is a hardworking man and providesfor his family. Thus, although he is drunk and abuses the children,he loves them and provides for them.

Symbolism is also seen in the poem. The title of the poem ‘MyPapa`s Waltz’ symbolizes a loving dad who enjoys dancing (Rukhaya,2010). The symbolizing in the poem creates conflicting ideas. Theinterpretation of the reader, therefore, will depend on the reader’sperspective. A positive perspective will show off a scenario wherebythe father does not abuse the children. He loves his family, and theyenjoy waltzing together. As in normal situations, the waltz has aleader, in this case being the dad. The symbol of a leader in thewaltz also clearly shows the position of the father in the family(Gale, 2007). In the other scenario, the waltz as shown in the poemis not the normal beautiful dance. The son feels the smell of whiskyas the father holds him. The whiskey is described in the fist stanzaas “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy.” Theinterpretation in the description shows that the son is helpless.When he feels dizzy, it is clear that he cannot be able to waltz.Thus, the waltz is forced by the dad and that is abuse since it isnot voluntary

Theodore use of imagery, language and symbolism in the poem has madeit possible to display an interesting literature work which utilizesthe readers’ five senses (Gale, 2007). The reader has to readbetween the lines to make a conclusive result and argument. Imageryin the poem mostly utilized the form of touch, taste and smellwhiskey and waltz describing it effectively. Strong words made thelanguage in the poem effective. Choice of words such as: death andbattered makes, it effective for the reader to interpret thehelplessness fear and abuse of the son. A symbolism of a leader inthe family, who is rough father, also makes the reader see the ‘love’in the family (Rukhaya, 2010). Though he is a rough and abusive man,he works hard to provide for his family.

In conclusion, Theodore choice of language, symbolism and imagerycreates an interesting flow of the poem to show the love, fear andabuse as well as leadership in the family thus the poem is amasterpiece that the reader has to interpret within the conflictingviews.


Gale, T. (2007). &quotTheodore Roethke.&quot Gale Research.Retrieved from http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

Rukhaya, M. K. (2010). Poetry Analysis: Theodore Roethke`s &quotMyPapa`s Waltz.&quot Retrieved fromhttp://voices.yahoo.com/poetry-analysistheodore-roethkes-papas-waltz-6616896.html?cat=2