My Papa's Waltz

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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When the topic of a conversation is abuse, often people become uncomfortable. They cringe when the "a" word is mentioned; they often try to change the subject. Especially if they have been a victim of abuse. In Theodore Roethke, "My Papaw's waltz," the narrator makes an abusive and harmful situation seem merely amusing and humorous. The narrator explains a dance in his poem but the hidden fact is that the dance is an abusive life as long as a waltz.

        The poem starts, "The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy," which tells the audience he has been drinking (Roethke 136). Carruth explains, "Incidents of violence often occur when the beater has been drinking heavily" (536). According to current statistics, "Alcohol is almost always involved in family violence. Up to 80% of all cases involve drinking, whether before, during or after the critical incident" (Somer 310). In a lot of cases when a child sees constant abuse to him it seems normal, almost like it's suppose to happen and it's alright that it happens.

        As the poem continues some might think that the father is abusing his son, and this is what is causing the pots and pans to fall from the shelves. "We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf" (136). To many readers this is how they see the picture of abuse. However other readers see the picture as the father and son dancing so hard that this is what causes all the racquet with the pots and pans. But if the dance is soft and flowing as is considered the waltz then how is this possible? Roethke says in his poem, "My mothers countenance cannot unfrown itself" (136). In this same room stands a mother next to her son. "About two in three...