Discuss the Roethkes My Papas Waltz Part I: Discuss Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” from the perspective of the adult speaker as he reflects on his childhood perception of his father.
This poem usually invites debate among students: is it a memory of child abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father or a beloved memory of exuberant horseplay? Hint:
The title of the poem is your first clue at the intended meaning.
Part II: What is the significance of Irene Wryson’s dreams, do you think? And why doesn’t she share this recurring dream with her husband? For that matter,
why is he ashamed of the fact that he bakes cakes in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep? What is so important about “a good appearance” in Cheever’s
story, and what overall message does Cheever try to communicate through this family’s quirky dysfunctionality?
Part III: In 1964, Joyce Carol Oates read an article about murderer Charles Howard Schmid of Tucson, Arizona. This Daily News article, entitled “Pied Piper
of Tucson: Twisted 1960s Killings by Charles Howard Schmid, Jr.” gives some background on what influenced Oates. Schmid was a Ted Bundy-type character. How would you compare the non-fiction to the fictionalized version? Why were some details left out in Oates’s version? Why do you think Oates added other details that were not part of the non-fiction account to her story?