My Expert Commentary
‘The Bat’ – Theodore Roethke:
By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.
He likes the attic of an aging house.
His fingers make a hat about his head.
His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.
He loops in crazy figures half the night
Among the trees that face the corner light.
But when he brushes up against a screen,
We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:
For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.
Theodore Roethke’s poem ‘The Bat’ clearly focuses on the animal the bat and effectively conveys through the latter an important message to the reader. One could interpret this poem in various ways; however a prominent theme would be that every being on earth has a ‘dark side’ which is often overlooked. The speaker’s tone in the poem varies and seems to have two very distinct sections; at the beginning it is light, playful and appreciative of the animal, however as the poem progresses one can sense the tone becoming mysterious, calm and increasingly alerting. This shift in tone has an impact on the reader and emphasizes the importance of the message conveyed. As previously mentioned, there could be various themes for the poem, however if taken literally the subject is of a bat’s life and its morbid depiction. Another way of analyzing the poem could be by imagining the bat as a shy person who does not like to be seen and only goes out at night, “his fingers make a hat about his head” (Roethke, 3), “by day…He likes the attic of an aging house” (Roethke, 1-2). Theodore Roethke may also be trying to portray the bat as what it really is. He includes both day and night in his poem; during the day the bat is a mundane animal resembling a mouse. However, at night, “when he brushes up against a screen, we are afraid of what our eyes have seen” (Roethke, 1). Of course, the word “screen” could be interpreted differently; one could picture it as an insect screen found in houses...
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