My Papa’s Waltz Analysis In a Structuralism Approach

This paper presents the analysis of “My Papa’s Waltz” in a structuralism approach. This is a poem, which was written by Theodore Roethke, and, an analysis in the said approach will provide an understanding regarding the social standing of the poem. The speaker used this poem to present a reflection of the experiences that he had during his childhood with his father in the picture (Farley 9). Upon reading this poem, different people may present dissimilar views regarding a father and his boy child. However, going by the tone, symbolism, the language, and the imagery in “My Papa’s Waltz,” it is clear that a lot of love existed between the speaker and his father.

In considering wordplay, imagery and symbols as presented in this poem, one may observe that the relation between the father his son elicits a mixture of reactions. Line five of the poem clarifies the events that are happening between the father and son in order to interpret their relationship where it talks of romping throughout. The dance, in this poem, symbolizes power and fear as well as love (Farley 9). According to line four of the poem, the speaker does not seem to be having a lot enjoyment in the little dance he is having with his father (Farley). As much as there is joy in romping, violence, also, finds way in the whole process. For instance, there is an expression of papa being drunk suggesting a situation that could result into violence.

It is, also, significant to consider the setting in which “My Papa’s Waltz” Occurs. From all indications, the events in the poem happened somewhere close to the family’s kitchen. Given that the poem happened in the 1940s, which is probably a long time ago, at least the family had a piano or radio, but lacked a television (Farley 9). Then the father played as waltz on the radio as the son danced. This could have annoyed the mother because her family was messing up her kitchen.

This poem, also, is clear just by taking a glance at the title. It is a scenario where the father and the son are dancing together, and this assists the speaker to have more concentration on the language’s rhythm. A three beat dance, usually, is called a waltz, and this poem has each of its lines having three beats as well (Gottschalk 23). Therefore, the title has the significance of expanding the poem’s interpretation. This means that the waltz could be symbolic of the relationship existing between the son and the father that dances between fear and love.

In regards to social and cultural view, parenting elicits different reactions in this poem. In the contemporary society, there have been a lot of alarms signifying child abuse following the prominence of various kinds of substance abuse. However, the speaker, apparently, respects the more memory he enjoyed with his father despite the fact that it was not simple. It is clear that he loved his father a lot especially from using a more affectionate terminology such as ‘papa’ to refer to his father (Gottschalk 23). There is, also, careful choice of words such as ‘romp’, which indicates a lighthearted tone. The speaker, therefore, depicts a lot of loyalty to his father. In the story, therefore, waltz symbolizes elusive and idealized kind of relationship between the speaker and his father.


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