Did you notice anything curious about the vocabulary, punctuation, or writing style that Theodore Roethke used in the poem "My Papa's Waltz?"

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The most curios thing about Theodore Roethke's poem "My Papa's Waltz" would be the vocabulary which he used.

The poem speaks from the perspective of a small boy (as denoted in the line "could make a small boy dizzy"). This young boy speaks about a very disturbing subject, child abuse.

The poem, as stated before, speaks to a night where a young boy is beaten by his father. The scene is set immaculately for the reader. The poem begins in the kitchen and ends up with the father dragging his son to the boy's bedroom. One can almost picture the actions taking place given Roethke's choice of vocabulary.

The other aspect of the curiosity of vocabulary is the fact that Roethke compares the drunken stagger and beating of the child as if it were the beautiful and classic dance, the waltz. The vocabulary, then, sets up a very curious contrast--one of a beautiful dance with that of the beating of a child.


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