Symbol in "My Papas Waltz"
The central symbol of the poem
is the waltz itself. It is described as a waltz (as a
noun) only in the title; it is a verb when it appears
in the poem. On the literal level, the father is doing
a kind of dance with his child, but the fact that it is
a waltz probably says something about the way they interact
when they arent waltzing. The fact that
the title is written in the singular possessive casemy
Papas waltz as opposed to our waltzemphasizes
the control implicit in the symbol.
- line 4 - "Such waltzing was not easy"
As dances go, a waltz is not that complicated or technically
difficult. It is more like the foxtrot than the tango.
Someone must lead in a waltz, which underscores the fathers
dominance over his child. It is not the fact that the
child is being led, but instead the way the father is
leading that makes the dance not easy.
- line 15 - "Then waltzed me off to bed"
This last line complicates any easy interpretation of
Roethkes poem. The use of waltz as a figure of speech
invites us to interpret the fathers waltz as a symbol
(the child is being waltzed, figuratively and literally,
to bed). The poem indicates early on that the waltz is
not easy, and yet it ends with the comfort and stability