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The Waking

The Waking


by Theodore Roethke

The Waking Theme of Fate and Free Will

It’s a big word, fate. Actually, it’s only four letters long, but it has a much bigger profile. If you believe in it—and maybe even if you don’t—it’s got your number. You probably know that fate has to do with something being ordained or destined. It comes from the Latin “fatum,” which means “thing spoken (by the gods).” And of course if it’s spoken, or written, who are you to run up against it and exert your own free will? Who indeed? Looks like one poet Theodore Roethke might be giving it a shot. He exerts his will in the way of a kung fu master, by using fate’s strength against itself. The speaker of “The Waking” seems to submit, even as he’s making his own way.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. What feeling does the speaker have for fate, if not fear? How do you know?
  2. Do you think learning is fated or a matter of choice? How might the speaker answer that question?
  3. Does this poem make a case for fate as a certainty? If so, how?
  4. Is Nature subject to fate? What would the speaker say?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker of "The Waking" totally believes in fate.

The speaker for "The Waking" does not believe in fate.

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