Frost: Troubled Romantic
Many authors before Robert Frost wrote through the lens of romanticism. Romantic writers offered their readers an interpretation of nature and the natural order of things as a means to comfort them when faced with life's difficulties. They proposed that nature could serve as a model, offer direction and allow humans to transcend their human condition. Another school of writers held that humans could not transcend nature or its order, they were the anti transcendentalists. Although they recognized nature as a model for human life, they did not believe humanity could rise above its inherent flaws and predestination for disaster. Frost's work reflects a troubled romantic view of the world. He attempts to reconcile these competing views of the world in his poems, "Mending Wall" and "Birches."
"Mending Wall" is a narrative of Frost and his neighbor mending the wall between their properties. However simple the poem seems, it serves as a complex argument between the two competing schools of thought. Nature sends Frost signals that the wall is useless, but his neighbor fails to understand. He just blindly follows the words of his father. His neighbor is characterized as being the opposite of Frost and is what reminds him that a purely romantic perception of the world is not entirely accurate. Frost, on the other hand, personified romanticism and contrasts the two. The neighbor is "all pine" while Frost is "apple orchard," and there is no need for a wall because Frost's "apple trees will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pines" (24-26) Frost translates romantic views of nature into characterizations of him and his neighbor. While the neighbor is a cold, prickly grove of pine tre...
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...o understand that he is still conflicted over these opposing views.
Discovering a way to understand life by looking at nature is a comforting thought. Embarking on this discovery, however, is far from simple or comforting. Frost attempts to reconcile aspects of his personal life with a romantic way of viewing the world. In the poems "Mending Wall" and "Birches" he attempts reconciliation but seems unable to find it. Instead he confuses both himself and the reader even further. The reader is unsure whether Frost has come to accept the will of nature and take comfort in it, or if he still fights with the natural order of things. This seems to be Frost's intent; he offers his readers the two views and leaves it to them to decide.
Meyer, Michael, ed. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Boston: Bedford/
St. Martin's, 2003.
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