Theodore Roethke's Root Cellar

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19 May 2011 Explication of Theodore Roethke’s “Root Cellar” A popular theme of a variety of art and media, life and death are often focused on individually. In the poem “Root Cellar,” Theodore Roethke creates a vivid depiction of life fighting for survival. To give a sense of the struggle life is facing, the poet uses a vocabulary that conveys a sense of unease and degradation. Perhaps drawing on his upbringing, Roethke shows a contrast of existence amidst backdrop of downtrodden cellar in the throes of decay, giving readers an insight into the intrinsic power of life’s resilient capabilities. The poem opens with heavy imagery to show the difficulty that one would expect life to have surviving in a root cellar. In the first line of…show more content…
From the dangled and drooped shoots to the rankness of the ripe roots, Roethke’s effective use of language enhances the power the poem has on our senses. Being a short poem filled with words that have strong connotations, “Root Cellar” takes readers on a short, vivid journey in a way that leads readers to understanding the tone and mood of the poem. Roethke’s decision to take readers to this foul location reveals the fact that if such a dismal place can sustain life, then perhaps the root cellars, and other places that conjure similar feelings, are not as rotten and desolate as they initially appear. Roethke draws from his childhood experience in “Root Cellar” to highlight life’s persistence and ability to sustain itself even in environments in a state of decay. The theme of life and death is reinforced using depictions that usually are associated with death and flashing glimpses of life. Through this contrast of life and death, Theodore Roethke constructs a scenario that readers can visualize and smell with ease, creating a poem that lingers in readers’ thoughts long after it is

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