Write an analysis of "My Papa's Waltz," in terms of character and situation.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker in Roethke's poem is one where a voice of reverie dominates the tone.  On one hand, it can be seen as a moment where a beautiful exchange between father and son takes place, an instant where a parent embraces a child in a dance of purity and childhood.  Yet, the deeper analysis reflects something darker presence.  The idea of the smell of alcohol, the situation of the mother's frown, as well as the scraping of the ear against the belt buckle all help to bring to light that the experience of what the father saw as happiness was actually quite terrifying for the child.  At the same time, the audience fully understands how the presence of alcohol made a moment of multiple experiences from an emotional point of view or situation.  The father sought release, while the child experienced being entrapped and being unable to alter the situation.

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My Papa's Waltz

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