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My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz

by Theodore Roethke

Men and Masculinity Theme

With rough hands, a battered knuckle, and the lead role in this waltz, the father in "My Papa's Waltz" is the epitome of traditional masculinity. Yet his son finds himself in the feminine role, following his father's lead in this dance while the real female, his mother, stands by and watches. This poem shows us a little about how this son takes his understanding of gender and masculinity from his father.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. How does this poem fit into traditional images of masculinity?
  2. Where, in this poem, are ideas of masculinity challenged?
  3. How does the imagery of the father's hands contribute to his masculinity?
  4. How does the mother help shape the idea of masculinity featured in this poem?

Chew on This

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

The father in this poem is depicted as an ideal of masculinity.

The son takes the feminine role in the dance, and feels feminine compared to his father.

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