From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Waking

The Waking

  

by Theodore Roethke

The Waking Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. What does it mean to “wake to sleep” in this poem? Does this mean waking in order to sleep, or waking to the true nature of sleep, or something else? What parts of the poem give you your insight?
  2. If you had to rank the different levels of consciousness discussed in this poem (thinking, feeling, knowing, fearing, hearing, waking, sleeping) from 1 to 7 (1 being the highest form of consciousness), how would you rank them and why?
  3. What is the value of paradox in this poem? Why not just make a direct statement?
  4. Does the villanelle form improve the experience of this poem? Why or why not?
  5. What is the speaker’s position on fate? Is it a positive or negative force in life? How do you know?
  6. What effect do the questions have on the tone of the poem?
  7. How does Roethke’s earlier version of “The Waking” (1948) relate to this poem? How are they similar? How are they different?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement