October 2nd 2012
The poem “The Geranium” by Theodore Roethke tells the story of a bachelor, formerly a party animal, now a lonely, aging man, through a sustained metaphor which uses the speaker’s geranium as a symbol for the disregard of his own health. The plant is never well, nor is he, due to the speaker being as inconsiderate to the geranium as he is to himself. With imagery, alliteration, and symbolism, much is learned about the speaker through a simple geranium to which he is intrinsically intertwined.
We can see right from the beginning with lines such as “limp and bedraggled . . . / . . . like a sick poodle / Or a wizened aster in late September,” (2-4) that our speaker does not think very highly of himself nor his geranium. The descriptors give a pathetic, aging feel; the comparison to a “wizened aster” is particularly potent. It suggest that like the flower, the speaker is no longer “in bloom”, so-to-speak. That his colour has faded, and he is past his prime.
The themes of aging and entering a new life stage come up again in line 6: “For a new routine –”. The caesura brings the reader to a halt; its sudden and final nature is reminiscent of an ending. The words in the line itself indicate a new beginning, which creates an interesting effect. This line could be representative of the end of the speaker’s youth and bachelorhood, as well as the beginning of a new point in his life. The act of taking the geranium out to the trash could also be symbolic of changing life stages; placing it by the trash could be representative of the end of one cycle, and bringing it back could represent starting anew.
In following with the idea of starting anew, our speaker shows plans of lifestyle change; he plans to change for the better and agrees that “Sustenance seemed sensible” (8) The alliteration here evokes a childlike, somewhat self-deprecating feel, as though the speaker is chiding himself for not...
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