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"The Sloth": Paying Attention to Detail

By darkmadarao64 Apr 21, 2013 684 Words
The Sloth: Paying Attention to Detail
Theodore Roethke, a twentieth century American poet, was a pioneer of poetry by varying his use of form and focus of attention in his writings. Due to intricate childhood history, including his father passing away and uncle committing suicide, his creative life was affected. Furthermore, shaping the way he writes from a young age. In “The Sloth”, Roethke insinuates that humans can be lethargic and tiresome through his use of figurative language, traditional and organic influences in the formation, and extended metaphor. Undoubtedly, figurative language plays a major role in poetry. Roethke uses a hyperbole in line 3, when he says “He thinks about it for a year”. Such figurative language, exaggerates how long the sloth actually takes to respond to a question. Additionally, he uses personification in several lines of the poem (lines 3, 6, 9, 12), supplying the sloth with human qualities such as thinking or assuming. The indicated figure of speech helps establish the extended metaphor of how careless humans can be throughout the poem. Repetition is used towards the end of the poem (line 12) to stress the actuality that the sloth knows the answer to the previously asked question, however is not willing to reveal the answer. Again, proving the hesitation and indifference traits humans possess. Roethke conveys continuous symbolism, by using the sloth as a representation of human life. Accompanying the previously stated, the consolidation of both traditional and organic influences in his poetic composition contribute to the general perception of the poem as well. Roethke’s use of maintaining a consistent number of lines, three in each, per stanza demonstrates traditional qualities. However, he divides his poem of twelve lines into four three-line stanzas. He obeys end-stopped line by using customary punctuation when needed at consecutive ending points of lines. Also, a constant use of end rhyme scheme benefits the development of said conventional poetry. Such as in “Peer, Ear, Year. (end of line 1-3). Word, Bird, Heard (end of line 4-6). Lug, Smug, Hug (end of line 7-9). goes, Toes, knows (end of line 10-12)”. In line seven, he also forces the reader to break apart the word “Ex-as-per-at-ing” to depict his true annoyance with the sloth and its slowness. Conversely, Roethke capitalises the first letter of the last word of every line and other words he wants to emphasise. The personal approach of expressing his disapproving temper towards humans is necessary to accentuate the rhymes and preserve the attention of the reader. Likewise, it assists in the creation and maintenance of rhythm for the duration of the poem. Simultaneously throughout the poem, Roethke gestures subtle hints to expose the true meaning behind the poem by using extended metaphor. His endeavor to prove that humans can be lackadaisical and phlegmatic carries through by use of referring to the animal as a “he” instead of an “it”, creating a meaning beyond the literal one. He uses the sloth to speak of lazy people and how they are self-satisfied; so, in turn, will not change their actions. Lines ten through twelve of the poem describe how the sloth acknowledges the fact that a question has been asked, however he just turns and returns to sleep. The nonchalant demeanor of the sloth shows how an inquiry may be requested, however that does not mean an answer will be given. The sloth additionally acts as if the author already truly knows the answer, so he does not feel a need to say anything. Roethke shows how the world goes by slowly and questions go unanswered by using the sloth as a symbol. The sloth in the poem connotes how the author beholds the world. There is always the chance people may become appalled with how slow some things may go by, so the author desires the world to move slightly more rapid and that his questions be answered. Theodore Roethke’s use of figurative language, traditional and organic formatting, and extended metaphor presents the idea of a sluggish and apathetic attitude within human beings.

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