Study Guide

Elegy for Jane Man and the Natural World

By Theodore Roethke

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Man and the Natural World

Roethke uses nature imagery to convey the grief and sense of loss in "Elegy for Jane." But he also uses nature imagery to show Jane's happiness. Roethke found answers and solace in the natural world. For him, nearly every aspect of life could be explained and demonstrated by carefully considering the natural world and our relationship with it.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What was your first reaction to all the natural imagery and figurative language in the poem? Did it make the poem more difficult or more accessible? Why?
  2. This poem has more birds than an Alfred Hitchcock movie (okay, that's an exaggeration, but you get the point). Do you think Roethke picked the right animal for his figurative comparisons to Jane? Why or why not? If you think the birds were the wrong choice, what animal would you suggest? How would that use of that animal change the poem?
  3. Imagine this poem without any natural imagery. Imagine it set in the middle of a city. What kind of urban imagery could be used to express Jane's sadness and happiness? Think of city sights and sounds.

Chew on This

Roethke believes that the only way to truly understand the human mind and human nature is to understand nature itself. Deep, dude.

Roethke needs to give it a rest with the twigs, branches, and mold. There is more to the world than nature.

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