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The Waking
The Waking
by Theodore Roethke

The Waking Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

VillanelleThe name of this poetic form comes from the word “villain” for its villainously twisted form. Just kidding—sort of. It is villainously twisted, but the villanelle really comes from...

Speaker

Shmoopers one and all know, or should know, that the speaker isn’t necessarily the same as the poet himself, but in this poem there’s a real temptation to see the two as one and the same. Why?...

Setting

What begins in the mind of our sleeping-waking-musing speaker ventures out in line 8, “God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there.” From there, we get some external observations along with...

Sound Check

Imagine the sound of measured footsteps resounding across a wooden floor: that’s what you hear first in this poem. Written in the villanelle form, with strict iambic pentameter meter, this poem s...

What's Up With the Title?

For a poem that is anything but direct, the title tells it like it is. This is, in fact, a poem about waking or shifting states of consciousness and awareness. Sure, it’s complicated by a series...

Calling Card

An Anthem to AwarenessAsk any five poets—that is if you can gather five poets at one time—and one of them will say “The Waking” is their favorite poem. What is it about this shifting, parad...

Tough-o-Meter

(6) Tree LineThis may be a short poem, with two of the lines repeated, but you’ll find the slopes a bit steep as you climb “the winding stair” that takes you where you have to go. Paradoxes a...

Trivia

Poet W.H. Auden was the best man at Roethke’s wedding in 1953, the year this poem appeared. Auden offered his house in Austria for Roethke to honeymoon with Beatrice O’Connell, a former student...

Steaminess Rating

GEven though this speaker can’t seem to get enough of his waking sleep, or sleeping wakefulness, and even though there’s an emphasis on feeling, there’s nothing “going on” where this spea...

Allusions

Literary and Philosophical ReferencesWilliam Butler Yeats’ “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” (11) Cameo Appearances Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut. In the first chapter, Vonnegut says he has...

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