In the poem, “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke, there is an emphasis on the process of enlightenment and self discovery through repetition, allusions, and focus on senses implying that the best lessons in life are acquired by taking everyday life experiences as they come and going with the flow of life. At the beginning of stanza one Roethke brings up the idea of fate. Fate has different things in store for every single individual. Therefore one must not be relentless with what life has to offer, whether it’s the suffering or happiness, but instead “learn by going where you have to go”. The journey of life teaches the greatest values one must adhere, one step at a time. Senses come into play in Stanza 2 as it is stated that “we think by feeling”. This demonstrates that feelings play a very vital role in the knowledge we acquire.
They influence how individuals are affected by events that happen in everyday life. One can either perceive a certain event as something positive or rather something negative. In this specific case music eases the souls and the “being is dancing”. The speaker wants to take music as slow as possible and enjoy every single bit of it because it brings dancing joy to the soul. Senses are an important aspect of one’s learning process because how an event will be taken depends on how each event ignites one’s senses and makes them feel. Regardless of whether it may be an up or a down, it’s still about living life everyday and “learning by going where one has to go” thus enjoying the little things in life that enhance our senses and ignite our life.
The use of a rhetorical question brings an insight into self discovery. In stanza 3 the phrase “Of those so close beside me, which are you?’, this demonstrates that when trying to discover who a person really is there are so many questions for oneself. There could be numerous identities that a person could hold, yet different events lead to evolution of character and personality, so there may be a lot of confusion within the process. Nature and faith in “God” affect every single aspect of discovery thus one must respect nature and everything around one. The main idea behind self discovery derives from learning what makes up someone’s character by going wherever life takes you and just going along with it and learning from it. The “Tree” brought up into consideration in stanza 4 is an allusion to the tree of life.
This stanza represents the idea that although self discovery may be slow like a “worm” it is still occurring. Waking up everyday might occur slowly because he is taking life day by day, step by step. Everyday as he awakes from his sleep he notes a change in life, more knowledge is gained and the speaker is now closer to discovering who he is in life.At last, the quatrain in the villanelle demonstrates the parts to life that are not so merry.
The “shaking” parts of life are the rough times that help build character and at the end of the day make an individual more strong and steady. Numerous times losing is not always a bad thing because what failure can teach one, success never can so lessons are learned slowly by taking life as you go through everyday experiences. Therefore, every single aspect of life plays into self discovery and although it may be challenging it is vital to be prepared to receive life’s tough moments, yet not let them overcome all the enlightenment and progress in life.The poetic effects of “The Waking” derive from the use of figurative language and its villanelle form. The poem adds emphasis to taking life day by day and learning from it. Self discovery and enlightenment is greatly affected by Nature and the way an individual decides to perceive it. So it is vital to take things slow and allow everything to just flow.