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Robert Frost is often referred to as a poet of nature. Words and phrases such as fire and ice, flowers in bloom, apple orchards and rolling hills, are all important elements of Frost’s work. Remove them and something more than symbols are taken away. These benign’ objects provide an alternative way to look at the world and are often used as metaphors to describe a darker view of nature and humans. In Frost’s poetry, the depth is as important as the surface. The darker aspects of Frost’s poetry are often portrayed through the use of symbolism, vivid imagery, and selective word choice. Frost’s poems appear to be simple on the surface, yet upon further scrutiny the poems reveal themselves as elusive.
Frost utilizes ordinary objects to create a deeper meaning. For example, the poem “Mending Wall”, appears to be about the differences between two neighbors and their ideas on rebuilding a wall. On the other hand, the wall may be viewed, in a more general sense, as a symbol to represent all the antagonistic or mistrustful barriers that divide man from man. “The gaps I mean / No one has seen them made or heard them made / But at spring mending-time we find them there” (lines 9-11), illustrates the point that people become separated without even realizing it because we become so caught up in what is happening in our own lives. The darkness, held within the afore mentioned quotation, is the feeling of sadness.
The fact that we do not take notice of one another creates a place that becomes more and more divided by differences. Likewise, the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” seems to represent the change of seasons. But further analysis reveals that the speaker is also paralleling the cycles of life with the change in seasons. “So dawn goes down to day” (7) illustrates that in life as in nature, golden moments fade away. “Then leaf subsides to leaf” (5) implies autumn, when the leaves begin to turn gold and fall to the ground. The color gold represents the end of life, whereas green represents new life. The poem also illustrates the loss of innocence. As the seasons change, life progresses and innocence can no longer be sustained. Autumn represents death. The changes in the color of the leaves are often viewed as beautiful even though it marks the end of a season.
The end to human life creates overwhelming feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Death, for some people, is a taboo subject. People are not overly comfortable discussing death because of the emotions evoked. Yet, Frost has the ability to create an awareness of the subject by using the beauty of nature as a filter. Frost’s darker side is also prevalent through the imagery of many of his poems.
For example, the title of the poem “Desert Places”, stimulates images of loneliness, feelings of abandonment, and a general sense of isolation. The word “desert” is often associated with harsh living conditions and a place devoid of life. The word it’, in “The woods around it have itit is theirs” (5), refers to the field and suggests that the field is just there.
The animals are absent too – “smothered in their lairs” (6).
The speaker is “too absent-spirited” (7) to matter. Thus, without the care of man and without the animals the field is deserted, desolated, and lonely. The closing line “To scare myself with my own desert places” (16), examines the manner in which people often fail to get in contact with aspects of their personalities which are undesirable or difficult to admit. For example, the constant struggle between one’s inner feelings and the accepted social norms. “Desert places” also suggests that people have darkness within themselves. The absence of a meaningful self or lack of self-esteem may create feelings of isolation. “Stopping by Woods on a Snow evening”, also illustrates a dark complexity to Frost’s works. The poem captures images of loneliness and indecisiveness by selective word choice. For instance, “woods” are sometimes connected with the unknown, darkness and isolation.
The speaker also uses phrases such as, “darkest evening” and “frozen lake” to solidify the mood of aloneness. The speaker is riding into the darkness on an unknown journey, only to find himself caught “between the woods and frozen lake” (7). The speaker is caught between old patterns and new possibilities. The “woods” represent the unfamiliar while the “frozen lake” represents the familiar. The speaker contemplates the decision he must make: “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, / But I have promises to keep” (13-14). The speaker’s journey has come to an end and he decides to return to the life that he has always known. The speaker is afraid to venture out into the unknown. Feelings of being confined to one’s particular role’ and way of being evoke emotions such as depression.
In general, people live in fear of change. People are afraid to take a chance even without some guarantee. Beneath the apparent simplicity of Frost’s writings, lurks a hidden commentary on both the nature of personality and the social/political state of society. Frost brings light to the darker side of humanity in an extremely subtle way. Dark complexities are not obvious on the surface, however they are hidden throughout his poems in the form of symbols, imagery, and careful word choice. Frost’s poetry acts as a metaphor for life. Upon first glance things look nice and orderly, but once the surface has been
scratched the darker side becomes more apparent.
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