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Root Cellar Analysis

Author: Poetry of Theodore Roethke Type: Poetry Views: 2570

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Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,

Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,

Shoots dangled and drooped,

Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,

Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.

And what a congress of stinks!

Roots ripe as old bait,

Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,

Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.

Nothing would give up life:

Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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i agree with what guest 'i think poems are just retarded and don\'t make any sense whatsoever and that people that write them are on drugs.'

| Posted on 2014-09-25 | by a guest

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All about us life is an ongoing struggle for survival. That struggle is not only among the poor and the desolate, but also among the rich and the powerful. The trials of life find their way into every life and no door is barred from their pearcing tentacles. But life beckons us and we find a way to carry on.

| Posted on 2012-05-18 | by a guest

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I know this may sound inappropriate, but in all seriousness, this poem is clearly depicting the underlying desire of all life, even the most primitive to reproduce. There are several sexual references in the poem, for example \"congress of stinks\". The word \'congress\' is often used to describe people coming together to have intercourse. \"Nothing would sleep\", \"dangled and drooped\", on almost every line is a reference to sexual intercourse. If you do read it with that in mind, you look at the poem under a completely different light.

| Posted on 2011-12-15 | by a guest

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i think poems are just retarded and don\'t make any sense whatsoever and that people that write them are on drugs.

| Posted on 2011-06-23 | by a guest

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What Roethke is trying to get at is the irony of life when everything seems dead. The shoots droop and no human would even venture to live down there in the mildest sense of the word, merely sleeping there. Yet even in the midst of this, life exists and continues. And \"guest,\" no one\'s answer can be wrong one you are talking poetry and there are no right answers, only better ones.

| Posted on 2011-05-10 | by a guest

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I would have to also disagree with \"Approved Guest.\" The poem is more of an amazement, Roethke\'s wonder at the natural world. The dark and somber tone he has in the beginning is canceled out and changed by the last two lines, quoted several times. But more so than just his amazement at nature, Roethke, in my opinion, has a sort of dis-amazement at the nature of people, and wants to contrast his reader\'s opinions of a dark world with how nature perceives it. Many people will read the grotesque language and be turned off, thinking that there is nothing pleasurable about the root cellar, but plants and natural life, outside of humans? To them, even in the most desolate, beauty is found. The rank does not drive them away; the leaf mold does not turn them from live. No, nature holds onto life. It turns it\'s possibly bad surroundings into something good. He is actually cheerful, and he describes the plants as this way- \"bulbs broke out\" as if it was their intent to make things the best they can be. \"Shoots dangled and drooped/Lolling obscenely\" as if it is taunting its surroundings.

| Posted on 2011-01-31 | by a guest

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I think the poem is meant to scare you. I mean it\'s about a root cellar all these thing like manure, leaf mold and how the dirt was breathing as in there was something buried there and it was still alive which is quite scary. and his simile with shoots and tropical snakes are like saying that it\'s alive so it\'s pretty much like saying that even though the root cellar seems dead and deserted, it\'s actually full of life if you look closely.

| Posted on 2011-01-15 | by a guest

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you are all wrong
Theodore Roethke was a poet fascinated by the wonders of the natural world. Growing up in his father\'s greenhouses, he had a vast appreciation for the plants and natural life that surrounded his youth. As a writer, he was adherent to the philosophical ideals of the Sublime, applying it to the natural world he wrote about. Roethke treated nature\'s creations as divine, and thus beyond the trivial. Roethke also sought to portray the quotidian, or things of everyday life, as full of vitality, advocating that the imagination as the ability to turn the banal into the extraordinary.
In \'Root Cellar\' Roethke transforms the mundane into a scene full of life; Roethke creates a central image of dankness and cultivation, an ecosystem teeming with life and growth. The poem\'s imagery is full of the sublime, emphasizing that the plant life is living and breathing, and thus a divine creation. The bulbs are seeking out nooks and crannies, the shoots hang, like \"like tropical snakes\" - these are living, moving entities.
Surely one could perceive the beginning of the poem as somber and negative, but the inclusion of the final line, \"Nothing would give up life:/Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.\" would negate this sentiment, for it is a line full of hope, emphasizing the divine, and almost magical forms of life in this cellar.
It is Roethke\'s celebration of the wonders of the natural world.

| Posted on 2011-01-11 | by a guest

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I think it is some kind of metaphor for the fight for lfe as every thing rots and molds in the cellar things still hold onto life \"Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath\" im sorry if im wrong...

| Posted on 2010-12-01 | by a guest

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The approved guest is very right while the other guest is very wrong. One word that says how much dirt and gunk is down there hardly makes it a "good" tone. You are completly wrong

| Posted on 2010-04-11 | by a guest

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I disagree with the tone stated above. Although it may seem somber and desperate the author still adds in many adjectives that do not necessarily fit. For example silo-rich.

| Posted on 2010-01-17 | by a guest

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1. Who is the speaker?

The speaker is the poet, Theodore Roethke. He has created a vivid image of the dark cellar. The poet has dark illustration of the cellar, thus, he must have dark opinions about it.

2. What is the dramatic situation?

It is easily seen on the surface that the poem is speaking of and old root cellar that has mildew and other mold or plant growing in it and is just in overall horrible shape. The dramatic situation is a description of this horrid condition of the cellar.

3. What is the tone of the poem?

The poet has a negative, degrading attitude toward the cellar. The poem is overall a somber, and can be seen when it says the following words: broke, dark, drooped, lolling, mildewed, evil, etc.

4. Are there any clues to deeper or richer meaning?

There is possibly a deeper meaning in the poem that can be seen in the last two lines.
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.
In here the poet is saying that no matter how tough life can be it is not worth giving up. He is saying that you can stick to it and live out life. The deeper meaning is that the whole poem is building up how bad it is to live in the root cellar, and at the end it is saying that it is not worth giving up life, no matter the circumstances at hand.

| Posted on 2006-02-20 | by Approved Guest

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