Theodore Roethke: Poems

Perception Versus Truth in Roethke's "In a Dark Time"

In Theodore Roethke’s poem, “In a Dark Time,” the speaker crosses over into the undiscovered world of insanity and communicates perceptions that others have disproved. Likely representative of Roethke’s own personal struggles with schizophrenia, “In a Dark Time” displays the thought process of a disturbed individual. Through Roethke’s use of deceptive rhyme, constant paradox, and integrated juxtaposition, the speaker illustrates the inconsistencies between his thoughts and the realities around him thus unveiling his trapped insanity.

Roethke uses an unconventional rhyme scheme to showcase the deceptiveness of the world. This theme of deceptiveness appears in the last two lines of each stanza. The first stanza has a rhyme pattern of a-b-c-d-e-e. When the reader observes the second stanza, he or she sees that Roethke does not follow the structure of the previous stanza. However, when observing the two words “cave” and “have,” the reader sees that the structure of the words suggests a rhyme. This use of eye rhymes continues throughout the poem. For example, the third stanza again follows the rhyme scheme of a-b-c-d-e-e, but when examining the last stanza, only an eye rhyme appears. Roethke uses these discrepancies to illustrate...

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