Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 152
"The Waking" is a poem by Theodore Roethke that explores existentialist themes, such as the random events that occur in the lives of people and how nature is an independent force that has its own cyclical rhythm that is outside of the comprehension and control of human beings. Roethke advises the reader to trust the natural and cosmic processes that people have no control of. By trusting, an individual can get rid of their fear of death and maladies associated with not achieving what they want.
Another theme of the poem is spiritual liberation. Roethke believes that humans should absorb the external stimuli from the world through their senses, and then to mix these sensory experiences with their innermost emotions. This creates a sort of spiritual alchemy that paves the way for self-awareness. This type of awareness, the poet opines, is the key to spiritual liberation within the limitations of mortal life.