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My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz

by Theodore Roethke

Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle. (lines 11-12)

These lines show that this dance isn't all fun and games for the boy, as he's getting pretty scratched up. Again, we see where two interpretations could come into play here – either the boy is having too much fun to say something about his ear getting scraped, or he's scared of upsetting his father. We think these lines are a metaphor for part of the nature of family: when one member takes a missed step in real life, it hurts others in the family.

Quote #5

Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt. (lines 15-16)

This wraps up the poem in what seems like a loving gesture of parenthood. We wonder, will the father and mother go to sleep right after this? Will he help her clean up the pans that have crashed all over the kitchen? Or will the whiskey on his breath cause an argument? The poem doesn't tell us any of this, but merely shows this dance into bed. We're left to wonder what the family dynamics really are.

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