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My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz


by Theodore Roethke

My Papa's Waltz Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

This poem has a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, meaning that every other line within a stanza rhymes. Many of the rhymes, though, are slant rhymes (words that almost rhyme, but not quite). Let take a loo...


Our speaker is the "small boy" in the second line. He's probably up late, complaining about having to go to bed when his parents are still up. Maybe he's even been forced into cozy pajamas, ready t...


This poem takes place in, or at least near, the kitchen of this family's home. The poem was written in the 1940s, so we can assume it is set some time before then. The family probably didn't have a...

Sound Check

This poem sounds like what it's about: a waltz. Waltzes are songs that are written in ¾ time, and the dance that accompanies them has three steps. The waltz is a graceful, intimate dance, norm...

What's Up With the Title?

At first glance, it would seem that the title is fairly self-evident. Here's a kid, dancing with his father. But the title immensely helps out our speaker. It sets the scene of the poem before we e...

Calling Card

Even though all of Roethke's poems aren't explicitly about his father, the poet's childhood spent following his father around his Michigan greenhouse had a huge influence on his writing. When Roeth...


Besides a few stray words, the language in this piece is pretty accessible. It's easy, though, to get sucked into trying to fit the poem into a category – either it's about an alcoholic, abus...

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

There's alcohol in this poem, and a little bit of violent imagery, but certainly no sex.

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