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Robert Frost – Relating to Life Experiences The Road Not Taken, Mending Wall, Birches, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost is remembered as one of the most popular and honored poets of the twentieth century. (Mertins- Frost) His popularity is partly due to his experiences and the universal themes that he uses to create his poems about relationships, nature, and the world. (Mertins- Frost) Frost’s experiences in life help him to create the vivid scenes he sets within his poetry. Among the poems that relate to his own life experiences are ” The Road Not Taken, Mending Wall, Birches, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” In “The Road Not Taken” Frost begins by describing the choice the narrator must make when the path he is traveling ends in a fork. The traveler decides to take the path that is less traveled, knowing that he may never return to see the other. “The Road Not Taken” is a metaphor for the narrator’s travels through life. He comes to a point in his journey where he must make a decision about the direction his life will take. One Path looks like it would be easy for him and the other would be more difficult. It could, perhaps be compared to choosing a career that would be less work, or a career that would be challenging. The narrator, of course, chooses the challenging one, and is obviously quite satisfied with his choice, for he says that it has “made all the difference.” (Frost) Frost is suggesting to his readers that when faced with decisions in their lives, the road that seems the most challenging may often be the most rewarding. It is a lesson that should be taken to heart, for Frost may have uncovered the secret to a satisfying life.
Robert Frost states himself that “The Road Not Taken” was written about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who knew that when looking back at the choice of which road to take, that taking the more challenging one, in this case going off to war, would be the most satisfying for him. (Mertins- Frost) He knows he gave up a good portion of his life and that his life might not be the same when he gets back from the war, but to him serving for his country would be more rewarding. This stuck in Frost’s head and he couldn’t bear not to write a poem about it. (Mertins- Frost) “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost was said to be one of his favorite poems. (Mertins- Frost) Mending Wall is about the building of a wall between two men and their houses, however, looking deeper into the meaning, the poem seems to suggest the establishing of boundaries between elements of the physical world as well as the inner world. This seems to be suggested not only by the poem but also by Frosts’ upbringing as he always showed a great appreciation for nature and sharing the world in all of his poems. (Thompson) The two neighbors in this poem seem to be building the wall initially about territory, but if we look deeper into it, it seems to be more about marking boundaries to stop arguments. The neighbors do not share the same ideology about the building of the wall. It seems as though they must repeat this task every springtime, but whereas one neighbor does it through tradition and because he wants to, the other appears to be just going along with it; he does not seem to understand. The title itself “Mending Wall” seems to suggest something about the poem.
The adjective “Mending” takes the gerund, which means it, is talking about the present. Perhaps this suggests that the task is continuous and always there. Also the fact that it is not called “Mending The Wall” or “Mending A Wall” suggests that it is not just one wall, but it can be any wall anywhere. The title it is given makes the meaning of it very universal. The overall tone of “Mending Wall” being quite ironic at times, to quite uninterested at others, gives the poem quite a human feel. This adds to the spontaneous effect. Plus with the use of actual dialogue in the poem, it feels as though what is not the neighbor’s speech in the poem is actually Frosts’ speech, perhaps what he was thinking in his head at the time. (Thompson) In “Birches,” Frost’s words represent an easy version of the world, a spiritual place that may seem difficult but there is always something to help one through.
Earth is again the place for love and it provides a loose stability on that basis, while aspiration toward heaven offers a more spiritual kind of guidance, a contact with God, which provides a central orientation for the soul. “The conflict between the optimistic and the pessimistic conceptions of the world is the source of the basic ambiguity and the tension in Frost’s work” (Thompson) This poem seems to be entirely about woods and trees. As the name implies, this is the main focus though the story. They are shown as an opponent for a boy that, once beaten, though very resilient, will never rise again. He describes them as being bent down with the results of an ice storm, but that he would like to think of them as being bent over by this boy. His use of the ice storm and the boy seems to represent his wistfulness at growing old and his desire to be young again. This poem written when frost was about 45, about the time that he would have a mid-life crisis. He can see that he is no longer the young man that once he was, not able to climb the trees like he did nor able to play like that. He talks of when he was a “swinger of birches” and how he dreams of being one again. He knows that this is not a reality for him. Frost also uses the trees in this poem to represent a way to get away from the cares and trials of life on Earth. He talks of getting away and coming back to start over. Climbing “toward heaven.” He desires to be free from it all, but then he says that he is afraid that the fates might misunderstand and take him away to never return. This is like most of us today. We want to go to Heaven, but we don’t want to die to get there. In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” Frost does not tell us anything about the narrator. We never know anything about who “I” is. The only picture that we get of “I” is that he likes the woods, the snow and the peace that is found there. I get the idea that this is a man, out on an important mission. It would have to be important to ride out on a horse in a blizzard even though they used to ride horses everywhere. Also, “I” has miles to go and “promises to keep.” This indicates a level of responsibility that would suggest the narrator is a man.
In the first stanza of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening we find the speaker reflecting on the beauty of a wooded area with snow falling. “Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.” (Frost) You can feel the speakers awe and reflective peace when looking into the woods that night. He doesn’t know the owner of the land but is still drawn to the beauty of the scene. Frost gives a scene that is taken into the reader and digested for a time in the speaker’s mind. It shows us that it is all right to take a minute out of a hurried hour and reflect upon what is around you, whether it is a snowy wood or a quite room. “If a reader, even the most superficial takes anything at all from Frost’s poems, it is likely to be a memorable impression created by the overwhelming presence of nature.” (Brower) “Frost visualizes man always cradled within nature, totally immersed in environment.” (Brower) “Frost’s views of nature do possess a persistent ethical or metaphysical dimension of very substantial importance in any examination of his work or of the values expressed in that work.” (Brower) This is saying that Frost basically tends to pull away from the statements of a theory of nature, or man’s relationship.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, is said by many people to be one of Frost’s most famous poems. “He himself always offered it as the prime example of his commitment to convention.” (Brower) As in all of his poems, Frost uses his love of the outdoors to pull the reader there as well. His style of writing tells us a lot about him as a poet. He is leery of growing old and he looks back on youth with wistfulness and longing for another, happy time. This is something that we all share with him and this shared experience helps us to enjoy his poetry all the more, as it seems to tell our own story too. His experiences in life have allowed him to become an inspired poet, whether the experiences were good or bad Frost let them out through the use of poetry.
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