Professor Scanlan, English 1121
Essay 2- Poetry Explication
April 16, 2020
My Papa’s Waltz Explication essay
In this line from the poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke, the speaker expresses deep emotion towards his relationship with his father. By using a metaphorical comparison of “you beat time on my head,” the phrase “beat time” means that time is passing by and the father is still beating the speaker or the child with his “palm caked hard by dirt,” suggests that the father is a hard worker, maybe a gardener since hands are caked in dirt. “Caked hard by dirt” suggests that the father is working with his hands and the metaphor “caked” means that the hands are not clean but are fully dirty, touching his child. On the other hand, the use of the word “beat” in this event is unfitting. If this line were truly referring to a dance which is a sign of gentle and romance, a more proper and gentle word to use would be “kept”, as in keeping time and not “beat” or waste time. With the poetry explication terms, we can figure out the deeper meanings behind the poet’s message. The author includes connotation and denotation of words, as well as symbolism, which is the main source of understanding this poem unclear poem. Also, a term like an enjambment was appended to the poem “Then waltzed me off to bed – Still clinging to your shirt.”
Even though we could see the speaker having a hard time sustaining a good relationship with his father, we can see that he is for sure very calm and does not resist anything that is happening in that event. The speaker suggests and demonstrates his relationship with his father through a poetry term symbolism. The author of this poem uses the term symbolism to straighten up the plot of this poem and to promote the idea that “waltzing” back to bed does not necessarily indicate that the speaker is physically dancing with his father. This may be more of a mental state of the character in the poem. Eventually, the reader may realize in the lines that the speaker is trying to promote that the relationship is not so rough, this may be the reason why in the last stanza the author adds the line with the child clinging to his father’s shirt.
The lines show a sign that such an event was not pleasing for the speaker, and he felt uncomfortable. The line also connotes that there is abuse present from the drunk father who is being rough with his child. But at the same time, the child seems not to go away from his father but stays connected to him when the speaker adds “still clinging to your shirt.” This strengthens the idea that the relationship between the father and son is at the same time very intense but still, there is a deep connection and love towards each other, since “waltz” is used herein a soft and gentle way. Furthermore, the line that says “Still clinging to your shirt” can be a very powerful demonstration of the love that the son has for his father. The son does not want his father to leave him and clings on to him to stay with him as long as he can before he goes back to bed. This poem is an actual presentation of where an author uses his words to express many different meanings to a reader. The word choice of these two lines brings a reader an idea of the speaker experiencing a great unease and disturbance from his intoxicated father that is rough with him, the author says that ironically because the word choice mostly suggests the opposite of what is happening. Lastly, the two lines of the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” in the last stanza show a lot of symbolism of the relationship between the father and son.