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New Criticism Analysis of My Papas Waltz

New Criticism attracts many readers to its methodologies by enticing them with clearly laid out steps to
follow in order to criticize any work of literature. It dismisses the use of all outside sources, asserting that
the only way to truly analyze a poem efficiently is to focus purely on the words in the poem. For this
interpretation I followed all the steps necessary in order to properly analyze the poem. I came to a
consensus on both the tension, and the resolving of it.
A poems diction plays a fundamental role in analyzing a poem, considering the text is all one needs in
order to discover the meaning. My Papas Waltz is a fairly short poem, but the words have major impact.
The word whiskey (Line 1) implies that the father is a drunk, and this makes the boy dizzy, (Line 2) or
in other words, it sickens him. The poem claims the boy is small, making him sound fragile, playing into
the next few lines of the poem. Death (Line 3) is a negative connotation, along with battered (Line 10),
beat (Line 13), and caked hard (Line 14). Romped (Line 5) has a positive denotation suggesting
harmless roughhousing. The word countenance (Line 7) does not flow within the stanza, sounding sharp
and negative, paralleling the mothers stern disapproval. Hung (Line 3) is past tense, therefore the poem
is a reflection of an earlier time. Waltzed (Line 15) takes on a different meaning beyond the dance,
making it a synonym for taking someone somewhere. Understanding the words of a poem was the first
step in order to analyze My Papas Waltz using this methodology.
Not only the words, but the figures of speech and other such elements are important to analyzing the
poem. Alliteration is seen throughout the entire poem, as in lines one through four, and seven through
eight. The alliteration in one through four (whisky, waltzing, was) flows nicely, contrasting to the negativity
of the first stanza, while seven through eight (countenance, could) sound unpleasing to the ear,
emphasizing the mothers disapproval. The imagery of the father beating time on the childs head with his
palm sounds harmful, as well as the image of the fathers bruised hands holding the childs wrists. It
portrays the dad as having an ultimate power over the child, instead of holding his hands, he grabs his
wrists. These two images make the father seem controlling. It is ironic that the child hung on like death,
(Line 3) or in other words, hung on to save his life. This is also a simile. The word romped (Line 5) is
ironic because out of the playfulness of it, the father and son caused destruction by knocking the pans
over. The rhyme scheme includes slant rhyme. Slant rhyme sounds unnatural making the poem have an
uncomfortable feeling. The stanzas flow like a dance would, except for the few words that sound off. This
parallels how the drunken father was clumsy as the boy states in line eleven. These all connect together
to give insight into the tension of the poem.
The obvious tension in the poem is the fathers abuse. The father is rough with the child. The tone the
child takes as he describes this particular memory is not completely happy, and the diction of the poem
supports evidence of this tension, as well as the figures of speech. It is implied that the father is a drunk.
Whether he is actually physically abusing his son or is just too rough with him after drinking, it seems to
be the main source of the tension in the household. This tension throughout the poem is resolved though,
especially in the last two lines. These lines sound very different than the rest of the poem. The boy is
showing affection for his father by not wanting to let go of him to be put to bed, proving that even if he is
too rough sometimes, he still enjoys his company.
By examining the words of My Papas Waltz closely, I discovered tensions that many would overlook at
first read, including me. I found relationships that I would never have normally found, and connected
figures of speech together that I never knew could be connected. Following the steps of the methodology
of New Criticism lead me to an overall better understanding of the poem.

From: 123helpme.com

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