Essay The Storm by Theodore Roethke

Essay The Storm by Theodore Roethke

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The Storm by Theodore Roethke


     The descriptive poem written by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke, deals with an aggressive storm and all its effects on the environment: the surrounding nature and the people experiencing it. The storm is described in a disorganized manner to highlight the big chaos the storm causes. Nature is precisely illustrated, because it reacts on the storm and thus is an important factor for the description of the storm. The people simply give an extra dimension to the poem, and the theme of men versus nature in the form of a storm.

     As the title tells us, the poem is about a huge raging and destroying storm, going through a little town, ‘up Santa Lucia’. The poet has chosen for an enormous unusual vocabulary of verbs to describe the storm: ‘whines’, ‘whistling’, ‘rattling’, ‘flapping’ and so on, although these words are not often used to describe events such as this hurricane. ‘Whistling’ for example has a rather soft connotation, however it is used to emphasize the rough storm, even though it has a noisy undertone and this is the case with the entire list of verbs used in by the poet.

It is not only the title and the employed vocabulary that illustrate the storm in such an overwhelming and remarkable way; there is also the absence of any visible structure. The poem does not seem to contain any obvious rhyme scheme and definitely no direct rhyme. Stanzas appear to be absent and some lines are very short ‘We wait, we listen.’, other lines are really long ‘Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upwards into the darkness.’ Enjambment occurs several times: ‘Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over / The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating / The walls, the slatted windows, driving / …’, just as end-stopped lines ‘Water roars in the cistern.’ The punctuation in the poem encloses no order either, there is commas and semi-colons, a question mark ‘Where have the people gone?’, an exclamation mark ‘A time to go home!’ and a hyphen ‘Breathing heavily, hoping –’. There is also a strong contradiction in those two lines: ‘While the wind whines overhead, / Coming down from the mountain,’ the wind whines overhead but comes down. Roethke uses more of these oppositions in his poem such as ‘The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell’, where flat and towering are fully in...


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...ature will win and yet the people will win; however, human will always lose. Because men can do whatever they want against nature, but once there is no nature left and we will die, so we need it. People are destroying the world, everything they do is so harmful to the environment and this might be the nature’s answer to destroy human beings. The balance is kept through these sorts of storms and hurricanes.

In conclusion, we can say that the poet has not used a simple and visual structure to describe the storm, but combined all different kinds of line-lengths, words and punctuation to underline the chaos a hurricane creates. In addition, he played with sounds and verbs to give the storm and the poem its noisy undertone. Therefore, on the one hand the poem seems unstructured, on the other hand when we analyse it further we do recognise a certain structure. Nature appears everywhere in the poem, since nature always reacts on storms and for the reason that nature is important in the poet’s life. And finally, the presence of the people gives the poem an extra dimension on how they experience the storm and even seems to lead to an eternal triangle between the storm, men and nature.

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