Here again, I want to share about my literature’s assignment about the analysis of a poetry by Theodore Roethke. This analysis was made by me and once again please underline that my mother tongue isn’t english thus probably there are some errors due to my imperfection in eloquence.

 

MY PAPA’S WALTZ

(Theodore Roethke 1908-1963)

 

The whiskey on your breath

Could make a small dizzy;

But I hung on like death

Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until pans

Slid from the kitchen shelf;

My mother’s countenance

 Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist

Was battered on one knuckle;

At every step you missed

My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head

With a palm caked hard by dirt,

Then waltzed me off to bed

Still clinging to your shirt.

  • FOREWORD

My Papa’s Waltz is written in four stanzas and there are four lines in each of stanza (quatrains). The rhyme scheme in each stanza is abab and its rhythm is called iambic trimeter. According to the title, the speaker of this poem is a small kid, probably a little boy and it is directed to his father. The writer is going to analyze the literal meaning first based on standard text and grammatical meaning to make the reader understand easily. The second step, the writer will conclude the figurative meaning depends on the literal meaning of each stanzas and line by line. In the end of this analysis, the writer will present the conclusion of the analysis afterward regarding to what have the writer found.

 

  • THE LITERAL MEANING OF “MY PAPA’S WALTZ”

First Stanza

  1. The whiskey on your breath [A]
  2. Could make a small dizzy; [B]
  3. But I hung on like death [A]
  4. Such waltzing was not easy. [B]

In the first line of this stanza, “The whiskey on your breath”, the father is the one who drinks the whiskey but the amount of this liquor is not just a little until it makes him drunk even the smell of the whiskey can be sniffed by the first person of this storyline of poem, the kid, or the father’s child. It causes the boy get dizzy, regarding to the second line, “Could make a small dizzy;”. “But I hung on like death” this line means that the smell of the kid’s drunk-father really makes the speaker, or the kid becomes woozy until the kid hangs on like a death. In the fourth line of this stanza, it becomes clear, “Such waltzing was not easy.” this line explains the entire of this first stanza, the kid are dancing with the drunken father but it’s not easy to dance with a drunken man until the kid needs to hang onto his father like a death, probably like a dead body, means the kid just follows the father’s movement in fear or anxiety that makes the kid being stoned like a dead body.

 

Second Stanza

  1. We romped until pans [C]
  2. Slid from the kitchen shelf; [D]
  3. My mother’s countenance [C]
  4. Could not unfrown itself. [D]

The first sentence of this stanza explains that the waltz among this kid and the father is not a quite or slow dance, but romp. Like making a chaotic background because we can see the second line of this stanza about the pans which fall off the kitchen shelf. From this two lines we can conclude that the setting for this poem is in the kitchen but there’s a little bit strange because we usually cook, eat, wash dishes in the kitchen instead of dance or waltz. The third line of this second stanza shows another figure of a mother who is clearly unsatisfied about what the father and the kid doing in the kitchen. She can’t stop frowning because probably the two main character in this poem are messing in the kitchen.

 

Third Stanza

  1. The hand that held my wrist [E]
  2. Was battered on one knuckle; [F]
  3. At every step you missed [E]
  4. My right ear scraped a buckle. [F]

On the first line in this third stanza describes that the father is grabbing the kid’s wrist, we can conclude that the father’s hand is so rigid, firm, and harsh, it might be cracked or dry from his work or he just whacked it on something that means he punches also maybe slaps something. The third and fourth line of this stanza, we get a little information that this father can be a little violent, every step that his takes along the waltz, his child’s ear grazes against his belt buckle. The father seems unaware that his belt buckle scratching the little kid. We also find about the kid is very tiny because his height is only as tall as his father’s waist.

 

Fourth Stanza

  1. You beat time on my head [G]
  2. With a palm caked hard by dirt, [H]
  3. Then waltzed me off to bed [G]
  4. Still clinging to your shirt. [H]

“Beat” in the first line of this stanza refers to a physical assault, the father with battered knuckle and rough palm, which is caked by dirt, seems very physical and tough. According to the third also the fourth line, the dance is end now, the kid has been waltzed to the bed, it means that the whole dance just a trick to tuck his kid into the bed and sleep. But the kid seems don’t wanna go to the bed because the kid is still clinging to the father’s shirt. Now the final of this poem sounds sweet, but then we think about the first stanza about the kid hung like a death, means that the death and the kid still cling to the father. The waltz is not a kind of soft and slow dance, is not easy, until the kid is scraped up, but the kid insist to keep slinging to the father, this kid must be loving the father beyond much.

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