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TPCASTT for “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke
TPCASTT: Poem Analysis Method: title, paraphrase, connotation, diction, attitude, tone, shift(s), title revisited and theme T I think the Title of poem means:
…that the speaker will be talking about his father dancing. The use of the word “papa” rather than a more formal word, such as “father,” also shows that the speaker is close to the father. P Paraphrase parts of the Poem
The smell of alcohol in your breathis strong enough to make a young boy dizzy;
But I clung on, as death does;
Since waltzing the way we were was not easy.
We frolicked so much that the pansFell off their shelf in the kitchen;
My mother’s disapproving expression
Was firm and she could not relax.
Your hand, holding my wrist,
Had one bruised knuckle;
Every time you missed a step
My right ear grated against the metal clasp on your belt.
You kept time by beating on my head
Using your palm, hard from the dried dirt on it,
And then you waltzed me to my bedAs I still held on firmly to your shirt.
C Connotation of some of the words—changing literal meaning to implied or associated values
“Whiskey on [the father’s] breath” automatically conjures an image of drunkenness, which could be negative (drunken domestic violence) or positive (relaxation) (1).
The use of the word “death” is very strong and unusual; the image of a small child is juxtaposed with the strongly negative image of death as the child holds on to the father (3).
There is contrast created by the positive word “romped” (5) and the violent sounds conjured by the “pans / [Sliding] from the kitchen shelf” (5-6).
The alliteration of “My mother’s countenance / could not unfrown itself” highlights the mother’s strong disapproval with the strong ‘c’ sound (7-8).
The father is holding the speaker’s wrist, not his hand—this is typically a position of power and implies that the father is the one in control (9). The father’s hand is also “battered,” implying that he has violent tendencies (10).
The father “beat[s] time on [the child’s] head,” and beat is a strong word that has a negative connotation when associated with children; it implies some violence (13).
The phrase “caked hard by dirt” consists of hard consonants in short words, which creates a tense atmosphere.
The image of the father waltzing his son to bed is a wholly positive image that contrasts with the negativity.
A Attitude—What is the attitude of the author, characters, or yourself?
The speaker can be thought to be thinking back nostalgically to his father, slightly intoxicated, “waltzing” with him. The use of the word “papa” in the title implies that he is close to his father. However, there is definitely a negative side to the poem (as seen in the above section) which shows that the speaker’s relationship towards his father is complex. The reader adopts the speaker’s feelings since the poem is in his voice. The mother has a disapproving attitude toward the scene since she cannot “unfrown” (8).
S Shift—At first we think or feel one way—then there is a shift: identify the shifts and explain them
Although there is some negative connotation before, there is a definitive shift after the second stanza, and the poem becomes darker, with negative images such as the father’s controlling “hand that held [the speaker’s] wrist,” “battered on one knuckle,” and “scraped a buckle” (9,10,12). This more obviously negative imagery continues into the fourth stanza with the father “beat[ing] time” on the child’s head (13). However, another shift occurs in the middle of the fourth stanza, as the last two lines are very positive. They only conjure the image of a child being “waltzed…off to bed” by his father, devoted and “clinging to [the father’s] shirt” (15, 16).
T Title revisited—any new insights on meaning or significance of title.
The poem could be called “My Papa’s Waltz” as opposed to “Our Waltz” because the father is prone to domineering violence; the attribution of the waltz to only the father puts the father in power as the one who “owns” the dance. “Waltz” in the title is more complex than just a dance, as is revealed by the negative imagery of the poem, which could imply that their “waltz” is a delicate tension as the father is drunk and prone to violence. However, there is still the overbearing tone of nostalgia back to a childhood memory, making the title more complex than it first appears.
T Theme or Author’s Purpose
The theme of the poem is that human relationships are often double-sided; the speaker of the poem has conflicting feelings toward his father. The author is showing that there is often another side to relationships that may seem simple at first.
nsFell off their shelf in the kitchen;
The poem could be called “My Papa’s Waltz” as opposed to “Our Waltz” because the father is prone to domineering violence; the attribution of the waltz to only the father puts the father in power as the one who “owns” the dance. “W