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What would be a good thesis statement that can be used for "My Papa's Waltz" by...

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tremibri | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 21, 2010 at 6:58 AM via web

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What would be a good thesis statement that can be used for "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke?

I always seem to get stuck on thesis statements!

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 21, 2010 at 7:13 AM (Answer #1)

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I usually encourage my students to pick two or three closely-related poetic elements on which to focus in a thesis, like:

  1. Speaker, Audience, Tone
  2. Metaphor, Imagery, and Theme
  3. Prosody: Meter and Sound Effects

"My Papa's Waltz" presents a quandary among readers: younger readers fear the father, while older readers see him as relatively harmless.  Do you see him as an alcoholic child-abuser or a fun-loving, though rowdy, father?  So, take a position and, using approach #1 or #2 above, support it with textual support.

I find the poem interesting from a structural level: the first two lines of each stanza seem to be carefree, but the last two lines have slight turns to a darker side.  Why does Roethke do this?  Is there a musical or metrical connection to this approach?

Also, look what other editors have said about how to analyze the poem.  The TPCSTT method always leads to a good thesis as well.  Again, only focus on two or three of these:

Title: Ponder the title before reading the poem

Paraphrase: Translate the poem into your own words

Connotation: Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal level

Attitude: Observe both the speaker’s and the poet’s attitude (tone).

Shifts: Note shifts in speakers and attitudes or form

Title: Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level

Theme: Determine what the poet is saying

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