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In his Theodore Roethke uses verbal irony to describe his drunk father’s actions. At first glance, the poet seems to describe a simple waltz between him and his intoxicated father. But on closer inspection, the real meaning of the story is revealed through verbal irony. The irony is already in the title itself. The metaphor in this poem was the beatings being described as waltz. In spite of all the showings throughout the poem, his father as person that he loved and still does the poet uses secondary images.
It is the images outside the main image to show how the brutality existed.
First and foremost, in the first stanza lines three and four the speaker exclaims that he “Hung on like death: such waltzing was not easy.” While many would think he was hanging on for his life the speaker is using a vague simile to describe the death. I understand that death is something that won’t let go of us, but there are also many scary connotations corresponding with the idea “death.
” The speaker also stated in the poem: “Such waltzing was not easy.” I can only imagine how hard it would be for a young boy dealing with his drunken father. This quote could also stand for a metaphor. It would be describing the relationship between a father and his son. I honestly think that it would not be easy to dance or live between the love and fear against his father.
Secondly, in the next stanza the speaker suggest that they were dancing too jovially and knocked the pans from the kitchen shelf.
The underlying meaning of the story explains that it was really his father’s drunken rage and abuse of his child that knocked the pans down. His mother’s countenance “could not unfrown itself” not only because of the pans, but because of her son’s mistreatment. (7-8) These lines also imply that the speakers mother attempted to appear happy, but failed. I think the mother was upset because the child could possible get hurt dancing with his intoxicated father. They were also making a mess, so it could also mean the mother could be looking silently while her child is being abused by the father. She would be feeling regret by not saying anything.
Lastly, in the last two stanzas lines one and two takes a darker tone. He is describing waltzing but with somewhat violent terms. In lines three and four in the third stanza explains the whole perspective of the poem. In this stanza it describes violently how the father was being abusive. The poem implies that his father was a deplorable dancer, but in reality to me means that his father’s missed steps or kicks. “With a palm caked hard by dirt,” This line means to me that the father probably worked in some sort of manual labor like a factory. The lines that supported my reasons was “The hand that held my wrist” and “Was battered on one knuckle.” In line 15 when the speaker exclaimed.
“Then waltzed me off to bed” makes readers think the father could have beats his son and send him to bed. In my point a view I think that the father and son danced for a long time until they was tired and and couldn’t dance anymore. The father then sends his son to his bedroom. The last line of the fourth stanza is so interesting. This gives readers the feeling that he loved and stayed with his father during his childhood, and that he does that even now when his childhood is no longer with him. The speaker states he was “Still clinging to your shirt.” This line could take many turns about how people would think about it. It could be meaning that the son himself was literally hanging onto his father’s shirt, begging him to stop.
Yet, it could even be said that the child was determined to hang onto and care for his father and love him no matter what. This last stanza was the most ironic of them all. In his poem “My Papa’s Waltz” Theodore Roethke uses verbal irony to describe his drunk father’s actions. I believe it is ironic because Roethke used the metaphor of waltzing to describe the injustices of a family destroyed by alcohol. This poem is full of irony, comparing the waltz to the way a boy and his father continue their dangerous dance.
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