Summary Of Theodore Roethke's Highway: Michigan

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James Dickey, former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said, “Theodore Roethke is the greatest poet this country has yet to produce” (“Theodore” 1). Theodore Huebner Roethke is a prominent poet in the mid-1900s. He was born in 1908 in Sagina, Michigan to Otto Roethke and Helen Huebner. He went to high school at Arthur Hill High School. Soon after, he went to college at the University of Michigan and later, Harvard. He studied to become an English teacher as well as a poet. Battling an abysmal depression, he taught at many universities around the country and penned many poems. One of his eminent poems, “Highway: Michigan” compares the hazards driving in traffic with the harshness of labor in the car industry. It exposes how the terrible environment…show more content…
The accident happens in immense traffic. Cars are going faster and faster fighting for position. They are playing with death. The drivers are forced into going fast because they can no longer slow down. All of the sudden, two cars meet each other and destroy their drivers as well as the cars. The driver who also works in an automobile factory has escaped the machine at last. The machine is a symbol of the car as well as the imprisonment of his job. The only way to escape it is death, Roethke explains, because it’s either work yourself to death or not survive because you have no money. For example in stanza 3 line 3 it states, “They are prisoners of speed who flee in what they have made.” This means that drivers have to go fast which is dangerous and also implies that the driver is an auto-industry worker. The theme of “Highway: Michigan” is how dangerous driving and working in a factory has become. The workers entire lives revolve around the car. They work all day making them, then they drive home in them. They have no escape from them except death. “One driver, pinned beneath the seat, escapes the machine at last,” (Roethke). Roethke is illustrating how cars have taken over people’s lives. Theodore Roethke’s “Highway: Michigan” illustrates how cars have made people’s lives more dangerous as well as controlling…show more content…
It shows the dangers of having cars control your life. Theodore grew up in a rural environment among greenhouses that his father owned (Theodore 1). In this peom he is describing what he can see from just looking out to the street at traffic. He wants people to know about he lives of the workers in the car factories. He desires this because he wants the public to know what he knows about the harsh lives of the workers. The machines control their whole lives. “The cars ride the workers, and they dictate their lives,” (Barillas 112). The workers, just like the drivers, have to go fast. This creates a risky environment for both. In the poem it states, “They are prisoners of speed.” This means that the drivers have to go fast or else they will be hated by all the other drivers. Theodore then shows the consequence of this, which is a deadly car crash. The driver, a plant worker, finally gets an escape from the machines through death. This illustrates the societal ill of “Highway: Michigan”. Theodore Roethke’s “Highway: Michigan” illustrates a heavy traffic scene which results in a deadly crash. It shows a societal ill in the way that cars control people’s lives. Theodore says that the only escape is death, which occurs in the crash. His purpose for writing the poem was to expose this societal ill and to have people think about this issue. This prodigious poem is a social commentary on the lives of the car factory
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