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My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz

by Theodore Roethke

Family Theme

"My Papa's Waltz" is about a moment in the life of a family: father and son romping around in the kitchen, with mom looking on. There's controversy about the family in this poem – some readers think this is a perfectly happy family scene, while others view the family as torn apart by alcohol and abuse. We think that while there may be fear and love mixed together in this family, there aren't many dark secrets hiding in this poem except for the inevitability of death splitting the family up. But that's just us. What's your take?

Questions About Family

  1. How do you think alcohol affects this family?
  2. What do you think the dynamics in this family are like compared to a typical family, especially a typical family before the 1940s?
  3. What role does the mother play in this family?
  4. How would you describe the father-son relationship that we see in the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The father in this family loves his wife and son, though he sometimes makes them uncomfortable.

This poem shows that alcohol doesn't result in violence for this family.

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