Theodore Roethke Psychological Criticism

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Psychological Criticism attempts to apply modern psychological theories to understanding literature (Introduction to Literature 13). When an author writes with symbolism it is up to the reader to apply Psychological Criticism in order to interpret the images used with symbolism. The author disguises their emotions through symbolism. Typically these symbols represent something much deeper within the character. When Theodore Roethke wrote “My Papa’s Waltz” there was much more to this poem than what is read on the surface. At first glance this poem seems to be about a young boy who is abused by his alcoholic Father. After breaking this poem into different pieces it is only then that the reader is able to see how Roethke applied the Psychology Criticism to explain that the waltz is not a dance, but it is symbolic of the young boy’s relationship with his Father. The mental process of perception from this small boy dominates as a central theme. The young boy is critical of his Father. “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy” (Roethke 1-2). The young boy does not like the smell of his Father when he comes home from work. The young boy also does not like the roughness of his Father. Roethke writes, “I hung on like death” (Roethke 3). From the beginning of this poem the reader is made aware that the little boy is uncomfortable …show more content…
The usage of the word battered goes along with the word beat when speaking of violence. The reader is now aware that this is not a simple poem about a dance. It is a story of mixed emotions during the time this young boy is growing up with his Father. Despite the roughness and the speed of the waltz the young boy never once complains. The young boy may not enjoy what his Father is doing but he accepts his Father’s actions because this waltz maybe the only time he and his Father are able to spend time

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