Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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Robert Frost, perhaps the greatest American poet of the twentieth century, has brought himself great recognition. Many critics have tried to find a faulty side to his writing, but they have had a difficult time because his writing "romanticizes the rural simplicity that he loved while probing into the mysteries of the universe (Estep 2)." Three areas of criticism covered are: a speaker's decision in choosing, a poem broken down into three sections, and Frost's use of metaphors and style in his writing. Born in San Francisco, but raised in New England, many of Robert Frost's poems are representations of his experiences in the northeastern parts of America. He was unsuccessful in college never earning his degree, and for several years he supported his family by tending to a farm his grandfather bought for him. In his spare time, Frost would read and write anything and everything. Discouraged by his unsuccessful life as a poet, he packed up his bags and moved to England. He continued writing and published his first two books of poetry, which would gain him the recognition in America he had been in search of (ExpLit 1). One of Frost's most famous poems is "The Road Not Taken." This poem is about someone who comes to a fork in a path. One path is well beaten and treaded, while the other is less traveled and more difficult. Is the traveler happy with the decision he has made to take the road less traveled? Many critics think he may have had second thoughts. Magill's Survey of American Literature states that there are many contradictions throughout the poem, "…He seems to contradict his own judgment. The poet appears to imply that the decision is based on evidence that is, or comes close to being an allusion" (Magill 64).The tone of the stanza and the title of the poem suggest that the traveler may be regretting his choice because by making a choice to do one thing you have to give up the opportunity to do another (Magill 74). "I kept the first for another day! I shall be telling this with a sigh." Discovering Authors Modules agrees with other critics. "Is he truly happy with his choice?" The traveler doesn't ever directly say he was happy with his choice, so is he satisfied? In the poem it states, "…and that has made all the difference," but has it made all the difference in a positive way (DAM 2).

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"Frost also probes one of the great mysteries of life: the ability to choose and the consequences of choosing" (DAM 2). The Literary Caf&eacute; also has similar ideas on the poem. After the traveler has chosen which path to follow, he still yearns to travel both paths, saying that he'll "keep the first for another day." But, then he realizes that there is no return to the other path and that the final decision has been made. At the end of the poem the traveler sighs, but is he sighing because he is satisfied with his decision or because he may regret something about choosing the path that he did (LitCaf 1). Another famous poem by Robert Frost is "Birches." It is a poem about the way the branches on a birch tree bend in the winter. Many critics think the poem is divided into three basic parts. "An Interpretation of Frost's Birches" thinks the three parts are the scientific explanation of the appearance of the birches, Frost's boyhood fantasy about their appearance, and his present day interpretation of their appearance. The first section is of the natural ways a branch would bend and crack because of weather. "Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning after a rain." The second is more of how the branches would bend because of a little boy swinging on them. "By riding them down over and over again until he took the stiffness out of them." Then in the third section Frost expresses how the tree reaches toward heaven and brings back memories of his childhood. "And climb back branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven." Magill has also noticed the three sections but in a slightly different format, saying, "It can be separated into three almost equal parts: the observation and description of trees bent by winter storms, the recollection of techniques of birch swinging, and the grown man's dream, energized by his awareness of claims of both "earth" and heaven" (Magill 69). Magill also notices the many comparisons in "Birches." There is that of childhood and manhood, black and white colors of the branches, and maturity and early experience. Discovering Authors Modules wasn't quite as direct as other sources, but they have the same idea. "The speaker in 'Birches' wonders whether a bent birch branch was cause by a child at play or by natural elements and metaphorically links tree-climbing with aspirations or heaven (Magill 72). This poem is broken down easily into the three sections and Frost uses a creative approach to compare the branches on a birch tree to a man remembering his boyhood experiences (Magill 74). Frost's poems have been criticized as a whole because they are all so similar in his style of writing. His use of imagery and metaphors along with stanza and meters is what makes his writing so unique and remarkable. His writing is able to represent things so much larger that the actual words can represent that sometimes critics don’t even see the purpose. His poem "The Road Not Taken isn't but just four stanzas long, but what it represents is enough to make someone rethink the kind of lifestyle they are leading and to take the road "less traveled by." Lawrence Thompson, Frost's biographer, states "…No themes are more universal and attractive than those which try to offer affirmative resolutions for the conflicts dramatized in his life and his poetry." In Frost's poem "Departmental" he writes of how people treat death and the dead by comparing us to something so small as ants carrying off one of their dead. This comparison shows the reader how that even if death is so common, it should still be treated with respect and dignity (Turpin and McCann 317). "Frost's poetic technique derives from the most basic factors in literature, the factors that characterize the first great literary age of European culture, drama, and metaphor, and beyond that, it has shown remarkable results in practice (APMRF 2)." One poem by Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice," compares how fire and ice both have the ability to destroy the world and should therefore be treated as equals. This comparison can relate to so many everyday events it is unimaginable. Discovering Authors Modules noticed Frost's use of metaphor in "Birches". "The speaker metaphorically links tree-climbing with aspirations for heaven (DAM 2). "And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven." Frost is without a doubt one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. His goal in life he once said was to write "a few poems it will be hard to get rid of" (Winnick 1). It can be said that he probably surpassed his goal. Robert Frost's life has affected his poetry and his poetry has also affected his life and the lives of many others who have come to enjoy his fine writing.
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