"The Walking" is a form of a lyric poem called a villanelle, a poem "composed of 19 lines, closed verse form consisting of five successive tercets rhyming aba followed by a closing quatrain rhyming abaa." Two lines that repeat the theme are repeated the end of each stanza and once again in the last stanza. The title "The Waking" is a clue to the main idea of the poem, the basic paradox of life. To Roethke, life is a process of moving slowly and gradually awakening to new things. Ultimately, these new awakenings lead to death and that is the paradox of life presented in the poem. Life seems so contradictory when one experiences both life and all its discoveries and then when one is fully aware of life, one dies.