In the above poem, the speaker is telling us about his relationship with his father who loves drinking. The narrator explains how his dad comes home late at night he likes swinging him in the house to make fun and since he was always drunk, it seemed to be dangerous.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes how the father’s bad breath through the drinking of whiskey could even make him feel dizzy (stanza 1 line 2). The speaker kept hanging on to his dad out of fear thinking perhaps he might fall through the hard-swinging. He says that it was not that easy since the dad was too drank.
In the second stanza, the speaker is telling us how the waltz and the moves seem dangerous since they moved through the kitchen and the steps were causing the pans from the shelves to fall to the point that his mother was trying to stop them. While all the waltzing was going on the speaker was holding his dad’s shirt afraid that he might fall.
The author also uses diction in the phrase “The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle” (stanza 3). These words make the drunken father more visible to a reader and the word ‘battered’ indicates that he was repeatedly beaten. This move shows that the father was aggressive and violent towards the speaker. Through effective diction, the author portrays the fear of the speaker towards his father and shows that the dance is not enjoyable.
In the third stanza, the speaker is telling us about the wound on his dad’s knuckles; this made him think that maybe the father was involved in a kind of a fight. And the waltz was causing his ears to scrape against his dad’s belt buckle.
The narrator uses a fearful tone while narrating the poem when he said about his father’s lousy breath of whiskey that could make a small boy dizzy, but he kept on like death, and he also goes ahead and says that the waltzing was not that easy (stanza 3, lines 2). He uses such words like death and buttered; this explains how his father’s behavior had an impact on his upbringing.
The most critical line in the poem is where the narrator explains how his dad’s hard, cracked palm with dirt hand held his wrist suggested that he was a hardworking man who was doing some odd jobs and after that, he still had some time to come home and have some fun with his son.
The speaker narrates how his dad beat him on the head with his rough hand, this action was causing pain to him, but the dad never had an idea. Finally, the dad swings him slowly to the bed, and we are set to believe that he went to sleep after that.
The setting of the poem is in the house since the narrator talks about how the dad came home drunk and also during the movements with his father while in the kitchen how his mother was standing there watching them. This setting is crucial because it shows the behavior of the father when he comes to the house.
The central theme of this poem is family. The narrator talks about the encounter with his dad and mother, and the poem describes how the son had a fun time with the dad. And it also explains the fear part of it. Even while his dad come home drunk, the narrator still refers to him as hardworking through his rough hands.
Roethke, Theodore, and William De Witt Snodgrass. My papa’s waltz. Bluestem Press, College of Saint Benedict, 2001.