Theodore Roethke's "Root Cellar" is a poem that uses several different figures of speech. Alliteration, metaphor, personification and simile are some of the major figures of speech that are most prominent throughout this poem.
Alliterated lines such as "Bulbs broke out of boxes" and "Shoots dangled and drooped" create rhythm and a lively tone. Vegetable shoots with "long yellow evil necks" and "a congress of stinks" are metaphors that vivify the reader's imagination of the cellar.
Personification features prominently throughout, with food "hunting for chinks in the dark" and "dirt kept breathing a small breath." Along with similes such as shoots "like tropical snakes," these figures of speech create a lively, even haunting, portrait of an otherwise mundane and uneventful structure.