The father and son in the poem “My Papas Waltz” by Theodore Roethke
have a complex relationship mixed with fear, joy, and love.
The boy says that he
“hung on like death” when his father was dancing. This implies a sense
of fear between the boy, because he does not quite trust his father to catch
him. He then describes their dancing as romping, which is typically a joyful
action which you do with your friends. The boy is obviously having fun.
father finally stops dancing he carries his son off to bed. The traditional
image of a father carrying his son to bed at night is one of true affection.
Clearly “Papa” and the speaker have a relationship sprinkled with
fear, joy, and love.