Diction in "My Papas Waltz"
The poem is relatively brief, with
clipped-sounding lines, and its language is for the most
part reflective of a childs vocabulary and thus
a childs perspective. Most of the words are monosyllabic,
and if they are longer they are disyllabic, with one notable
exception: the word countenance in line 7. The unusual
diction in lines 6 and 7 stand out and give special weight
to that section of the poem.
- line 4 - "was not easy"
This understated observation emphasizes that we are partially,
even largely, in the mind of a child in this poem. There
are more precise ways to describe the dance, but a child
would probably not use a more sophisticated vocabulary.
- lines 7/8 - "My mothers countenance /
Could not unfrown itself."
These are unusual and arresting lines in terms of diction,
and they signal a change in the poem. Not only is countenance
a relatively unusual word for facial expression, but the
idea that the countenance has control over itself is odd.
Also, unfrown is a made-up word, albeit one whose
meaning is clear enough. These lines give special emphasis
to the speakers consciousness of his mother. She
is not mentioned anywhere else in the poem, but her disapproval
of this scene and her apparent inability to do anything
about it except scowl intensify the danger of the situation.
If there is something potentially tragic about the interaction
between father and child, there is also an audience for