When you first read it, Theodore Roethke's poem "Sale" seems like it is about a house that is empty and for sale. The metaphors, similes, connotation, and personification show the sadness of the house and the more important point. The poem is actually about the death of a grandfather and everything in the house seems to remind him of his grandfather and how his grandfather was an abusive man to him and the rest of his family. He is trying to let go lost memories.
In the beginning of the poem Roethke writes, "-And an attic of horrors, a closet of fears." (1.4). This is where you start to feel that the poem is about something more. He uses metaphors to describe the house, or in this case, what may have happened in the house. Roethke starts by saying that this house is for sale and he describes it like a regular house, but then all of these thoughts just hit the reader.
It is not exactly yet clear that it may have been a death or whose death it was. But you can see that something had to have happened to fill the attic with horrors and to fill the closet with fears. It gives the aroma or sense of a death but doesn't exactly say it. These things remind the author of bad things and bad memories. It just gives the poem an eerie connotation right there at the beginning of the poem.
There is more that reveals what Roethke is trying to say. Roethke writes, "The summer house shaped like a village band stand/-And grandfather's sinister hovering hand." (2.3,2.4). Roethke starts again by describing the house and things in it. And once again the reader gets hit with these thoughts. He uses a simile to describe the house as a village bandstand. A house that is alone and one of those places you go to getaway. The more important thing is that he uses a metaphor to say "-And grandfather's sinister hovering hand." He remembers that about the house. This is where the reader gets the thought that his grandfather was an abusive man. Roethke remembers that sinister hovering hand right before he was physically hurt. Like he is looking at the house and he is seeing the hand, because he was scarred with these memories.
Roethke describes his pain furthermore in the next stanza. Roethke writes "-And some watery eyes in a Copley head." (3.4). The reader can tell that someone was crying, most likely him. He witnessed something that was so horrible or so sad that all he could do was stand there and cry. It is just the connotation of the words that makes the stanza stand out. The reader feels the sadness of what he has experienced and they start to feel it too. It was his grandfather's abuse that most likely caused his watery eyes. The grandfather was just a horrible man that caused all this sadness.
Later in the poem Roethke writes, "The dining room carpet dyed brighter than blood," (4.1). He uses personification to describe the carpet. He uses the word blood, which makes you think that there were things that went wrong there. It may have been that the carpet was not even the color of blood but that he remembers his blood being all over the carpet because of being abused. Or that something was done to his grandfather and he remembers the blood running from his body. The reader feels that something was wrong here. Roethke talks about red and blood a lot so you know that something happened when he was abused or when his grandfather died. All of these bad memories inside his head, and it is all he can remember about this house. At the end of the fourth stanza, you can tell that the grandfather has died. Roethke writes "-And a fume of decay the clings to the wood." (4.4). The connotation of the words used makes you think more of the decay of a body. Not so much that the wood was decaying but that there was a smell of decay in the house. The smell of his dead grandfather. His grandfather was part of that house and so was he. His grandfather died with that house, all the thoughts and memories are gone.
Roethke writes again with a metaphor, "All the rings and the relics encrusted with sin" (5.3). He uses a metaphor in this part to describe what went on. He means that objects or traditions in the house were not all that hey appeared to seem. Maybe his grandfather was a drunk and ruined a lot of good times in that house and made it seem like they all ended up just being bad memories. Or that he got things from his grandfather that were suppose to be sentimental and have a value but just turned out to be a joke and meaningless. Things that could have been given to other people like his grandmother but they were all filled with sin. Maybe he wasn't loyal to her and all these things were just sinful. He really doesn't feel right about what happened in that house. Good times were nowhere to be found, they always turned out the wrong way. The grandfather just always left him with bad memories. He is glad that the house is for sale and he is glad that his grandfather is gone. He can forget about all these things and finally move on.
Roethke ends the poem by writing, "-And the taint in a blood that was running too thin." (5.4). His grandfather is dead. The influences that the memories had on him are relieved. He was so compelled about this whole thing and with this death there goes it all, finally. Once again he uses personification to describe it. The taint that is in a blood running too thin. He was so tired of it all, the horrible things and memories. Now they are gone, all gone, probably for the best though. It is like he was scarred by these things and all in one big rush they seem to be relieved and gone but the scars are still there.
As you can see Theodore Roethke's poem "Sale" is clearly about something much more deeper than a house being for sale. The metaphors, similes, connotation, and personification show what Roethke was really talking about. There were horrible memories in that house that he remembers and it is all he can think about when he sees them. His grandfather, being a cruel and abusive man was in control of it all. With his death, which is always a sad thing but in this story has totally let a man go and be relieved. He may still be sad but he can let go these things. It is all over for him, he can now continue on. Would you be able to continue on after something like this? Sale By: Theodore Roethke For sale: by orders of the remaining heirs Who ran up and down the big center stairs The what-not, the settee, the Chippendale chairs -And an attic of horrors, a closet of fears.
The furniture polished and polished so grand, A stable and paddock, some fox-hunting land, The summer house shaped like a village bandstand -And grandfather's sinister hovering hand.
The antimacassar for the sofa in red, The Bechstein piano, the four-poster bed, The library used as a card room instead -And some watery eyes in a Copley head.
The dining room carpet dyed brighter than blood, The table where every one ate as he should, The sideboard beside which a tall footman stood -And a fume of decay that clings fast to the wood.
The hand-painted wall-paper, finer than skin, The room that the children had never been in, All the rings and the relics encrusted with sin -And the taint in a blood that was running too thin.