Robert Frost as a modern poet common man and poet of nature | The theme of alienation in the poetry of Robert Frost

Mofizur Rahman

Robert Frost as a modern poet common man and poet of nature | The theme of alienation in the poetry of Robert Frost

Honours 4th Year
English Department
Subject-American Poetry
Topics- Robert Frost Poem's
Part- C (Broad Question & Answer)

Robert Frost as a modern poet common man and poet of nature | The theme of alienation in the poetry of Robert Frost


Justify Robert Frost as a modern poet.

Answer: The term 'modernity‖ simply demands the presence of irregular verse forms, fragmentary sentences, learned allusions, ironic contrasts and abstruse symbolism in poetic composition. Actually modernism implies a keen perception into the modern psyche, the modern consciousness .However, there are two schools of critic with their different views on considering  Robert Frost to be a modern poet. T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats, the contemporaries at Frost, do not regard him as a modern poet but some other 20 Century critics, Cleanth Brooks, Trilling and Lynen establish him to be a modern poet.

Robert Frost's world is rural Undoubtedly  he retires  into countryside and such retirement is not a romantic escape from the unpleasant  realities of modern life rather it provides him with a point of view, all frame of reference , for studying and commenting on the facts of modern life. Frost studies life and strips down to its elemental simplicity and this simplicity is his norm of judgment not only the urban life, but of life in general. However, ―Birches‖ shows his realistic attitude to life and it also tells us that man constantly aspires  for things beyond the world Frost suggests that one should not do it rather one should know and love the things of the world and let the afterlife  take care of itself. So the speaker says that:

"Earth's the right place for love: 
I don't know where it's likely to go better.

Frost has used a method of indirection  as used by modern poets like T. S. Eliot and others. In "The Waste Land" Eliot juxtaposes the present and the past. The past here is definitely meant to reveal and interpret the present. Likewise, in Frost's poetry, the rural and the urban are juxtaposed- the rural serving as a standard for and comment on the urban. The metaphoric poem, "Mending Wall‖ shows the necessity of walls, of clear demarcations of property is emphasized, implicitly criticising the craze for breaking down walls and imposing Doorbelling.

Frost has an affinity with the modern poets in style and symbolic technique "Fire and Ice" is a symbolic poem. Some contend that the world will perish in the symbolising passion, some ice symbolic of hatred .But the speaker lavours passion and upon second thought; he adds that hatred is powerful enough to destroy the world .They both are capable of destroying the world. The underlying symbolic meaning is that the intensity of man's passions, which makes him human, creates the inhuman forces of disaster. The speaker says:

"Some say the world will end in fire. Some say in ice."

Like many other modern poets, Frost deals with the tension and problems of modern people. Just as in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, the protagonis  is suffering from indecision  to propose the woman he loves, so in "Road Not Taken" by Frost, the speaker hesitates to choose one of the two roads. But here he becomes successful in electing one of them after a long period of hesitation. The speaker's hesitant mind is expressed:

"And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could"

Frost's poetry gives evidence that he believes in some kind of god, and that he adheres to  a strict sense of values, but that his beliefs are not those of the traditional Christian. He rejects the acceptable idea of heaven. In "After Apple Picking" he suggests that man's life after death is akin  to the hibernation of an animal. He also rejects the rigid orthodoxy which he sees in most religions. So there is not denying of the fact that such an approach to religion is modern.

To sum up the analysis, it is apparent that if we consider all the aspects and examine all the important poems we will definitely come to the conclusion that Robert Frost is a genuine modern poet because his poems deal with most of the subject matters a modern poem contains.

Evaluate Frost as a poet of common man.

Answer: Robert Frost is certainly called the poet of common man. In his poetry he defends an M asserts the worth of man. He reveals himself as a student of human nature and interests. Frost's poetry is inseparable from his humanism. His views of man and society have two aspects loneliness and communion. On the one hand, man feels himself a part of society, with responsibilities toward fellow human beings, on the other hand, there are moments when he feels at a distance from his fellow beings, senses walls and barriers and alienation.

In poems such as "Tree at My Window', 'Home Burial' and others Frost can be readily accepted as poet of common man. In these poems Frost shows his capacity to portray the human inwardness which is appropriate to each situation. In the poem "Tree at My Window' Frost brings out the inner sufferings of human soul through the image of a tree tossed by natural forces:

But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed, 
And if you have seen me when I slept, 
You have seen me when I was taken and swept And all but lost.

As a biographer of human soul Frost may be called unique. In the portrayal of human soul we find his wit, humour and sympathy even in the midst of irony. He delves deep into the feeling. fear loneliness and passion of a soul records the experience most dramatically. His humanitarianism involves love that encompasses all earthly things. Mary's appeal to Warren for Silas reveals love and sympathy of the rich for the poor:

Warren, I wish you could have heard the way He jumbled everything. I stopped to look 
Two or three times he made me feel so queer To see if he was talking in his sleep.  
Robert Frost has shown his skill in portraying human characters. The speaker in 'Mending Wall', the man of "Road Not Taken' realize a fresh significance of love in spite of their contraries. They are all interesting personages.

Robert Frost speaks of universal love in spite of being a regional poet. He looks beyond the local to the universal. The local traveller's experience in 'Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening' and that of the swinger of the poem 'Birches' have universal appeal.

The kindness of Mary in the poem, "The Death of a Hired Man' and many other instances speak of Frost wide human outlook. Frost sense of brotherhood is unique. So he does not make it clear as to whose side he is on in the poem 'Mending Wall'.

Obligations to mankind are always expressed by a typical character of Robert Frost. There is tendency to escape in the characters of Frost. So the lovely, dark and deep woods captivate the speaker of the poem 'Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening' but he realizes his humanistic impulse and comes back to keep promises and travel 'miles' before he sleeps. The swinger of birches comes back to earth because it is the right place for love.

Withdrawal into rural world by Frostian man is not an escape from reality of suffering and pain. When he retreats from urban setting, he can judge and evaluate his life all the better. Man comes to understand his isolation from nature, Man and God. And he also comes to realize differences can be overcome only through love.

Thus we see that Frost concept of man is universal. His poetry shows that man is faced with limitation but be can save himself from these limitations through the redeeming principles of love and need, faith and courage.

Justify Robert Frost as a poet of nature.

Answer: Robert Frost depicts the bright and the dark aspects , the benevolent and the hostile forces of Nature in his poems on realistic terms. Critics have a difference of opinion over his designation of a poet of Nature. Alvarez says that: "Frost is not a Nature poet". Despite this adverse view we may find so many aspects in the poems of Robert Frost for which we may call him a poet of nature.

One point of view on which almost all the critics agree is Frost's minute observation and accurate description of the different aspects of nature in his poems. For illustration, these lines from "Birches" may be quoted:

Often you must have seen them 
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning 
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

These lines depict the beauty and the mystery of the snow filled birches which hold the poet almost spell-bound.

Frost is primarily a realist who abstruse( the things around him and in nature as they are and describes them as such. That is why nature changes its character from poem to poem in his poetry. In the poem 'After Apple Picking' Frost gives appealing description of nature after the tiresome day labour by using sense of smell:

Essence of winter sleep is on the night, 
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

Frost pastoral element is dominant in Frost's poetry. That is why he is considered  as a poet of pastures and plains, mountains and rivers, woods and gardens, groves and bowers, fruits and flowers, seeds and birds as he was a farmer. Hence, nature was his constant companion. But what is noticeable in his poetry is that even in the poems such as "Birches", "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", "After Apple Picking", and "Mending Wall" it is the human factor which is predominant() and nature is an integral part of the themes of the poems. For worries  and disappointments  in life make life miserable but the poet still clings to it because he loves the earth.

Frost unlike Wordsworth is not a nature mystic. He does not see any affinity between nature and man nor does he find any spirit or power pervading  it. Nor does he find any healing power  in it which can cure the ills of society and man. For him nature is just an integral part of human life. Frost's poems describe simply his daily and common experience.

"Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning" (Birches) 
"And life is too much like a pathless wood" (Birches)
 "The world of hoary grass" (After Apple Picking)

These are some of the images which have locked his poem with beauty and sense. Though Frost is philosophic and not didactic  yet his poems usually convey the wisdom of his experience which may be termed as a moral.

Thus, the panorama of nature presented in Frost's poems not only offers a feast of beauty to the view of the reader but also provides him awareness of life. His sarcastic qualities find full expression in the description of the scenes of nature. In the light of these views Frost may safely be considered as a poet who gave an entirely new concept of nature and is one of the great poets of nature.

Depict the theme of alienation in the poetry of Robert Frost.

Answer: Many of Frost's poems convey a sense of loneliness, emptiness, alienation, and isolation. Though alienation means different things in psychology in Frost poetry it means someone's feeling of being detached  from society, from the world and even from one own self.

"Acquainted with the Night" is a poem that reflects the theme in a better way. The speaker of this poem is walking out past the city lights on a rainy night. He hears nothing but the sound of his own feet as he is engulfed by the silence of the darkness. When he passes the watchman, he lowers his eyes, and when he hears another human cry of suffering, he cannot acknowledge it. The night becomes a metaphor for the darkness and desolation of his spirit.

Another poem that conveys this same sense of isolation is "Desert Places." The snow falling on a field on a winter night is the setting for this poem. As the speaker watches the blankness caused by the blackness of the night and the whiteness of the snow, he declares that "The loneliness includes me unawares'. Just as in "Acquainted with the Night," here nature becomes a metaphor for the speaker's internal state. At the end of this poem, the speaker admits that within him lie the most deserted of places. He implies that this loneliness is not from outside but from within.

"Birches" creates a mood of loneliness and isolation. Some factors that contribute to the mood include the winter weather, which seems to cut the speaker off from other people. The speaker's loneliness may be the result of adult concerns and considerations. Though the harsh realities of life necessitate this type of alienation for the time being, it does not last long. The poem "Tree at My Window' reveals the fact that physical alienation cannot bring about spiritual alienation. So the poet sees the shadow outline of the tree when the window sash is lowered at night.

Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall" is a comment on the nature of our society. In this poem, Frost examines the way in which we interact with one another and how we function as a whole. For Frost, the world is often one of isolation. Man has difficulty communicating and relating to one another. As a result, we have a tendency to shut ourselves off from others. In the absence of effective communication, we play the foolish game of avoiding any meaningful contact with others in order to gain privacy.

"The Mending Wall" describes two neighboring farmers who basically live in isolation, at least from one another. Frost's use of language reinforces the idea of isolation. When writing about the wall's annual collapse, Frost uses the word "gaps" to describe the holes in the wall. However, this could also stand for the "gaps" that the neighbors are placing  between each other. "No one has seen them made or heard them made" but somehow the gaps naturally exist and are always found when the two get together.

A circumstance in Frost's personal life too contributed to the theme of isolation. Frost's sister, Jeanie, had become totally alienated from the world, unable to accept the coarseness and brutality of existence. Frost's sadness in being unable to dissuade her from the view of things is similar to the plight of the husband in "Home Burial". The young woman in this poem cannot reconcile herself to the death of her child and becomes totally alienated.

 To the ordinary reader, such poems seem to imply a pessimistic view of human life. Frost regards the sense of isolation, not as a peculiarly American dilemma but as a universal situation. The poems having this theme are therefore truly realistic.

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