Symbols in Robert Frost’s poems.

Robert Frost as a Modern PoetUndoubtedly, Symbolism takes a greater part in a literary work. It implies an indirect suggestion of ideas. A poet may not convey his through direct statement or he can do it indirectly. Thus symbolism means a veiled mode of communication. A poem may have a surface meaning but it may also have a deeper meaning which is understood by the reader only by interpreting the deeper significance of the words and phrases used. It is obvious that a symbolic poem should be richer and more profound by the virtue of its use of symbols. However, Robert Frost’s poems are found to be largely symbolic if they are perused closely and carefully.

“After Apple Picking” is an excellent symbolic poem of Robert Frost. It is seen here in the poem that the speaker is picking apples in autumn from his orchard and he is fatigued from picking up a good number of apples. The act of harvesting apples symbolizes task in our life generally. Afterwards, the speaker of the poem says that:

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

The speaker senses that the winter is approaching after the autumn is over. Here ‘winter’ is the symbol of death and decay whereas ‘sleep’ is symbolic of death too. However, the entire poem exists on the two levels: the literal harvest finishes and the literal sleep to come, the harvest of life, now nearly finished with the sleep of death to come. The speaker has worked hard in the harvest and now he is tired and quite ready for death. He knows that his life is nearly over. So he is drowsing off.

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The first poem in North of Boston, “Mending Wall” has remained one of the most typical dramatic monologues with its setting in New England. In the poem, the speaker disagrees with his neighbor at his excessive willingness to repair a wall towards the end of every winter although the natural forces want it down. Despite it, the neighbor holds firm to his father’s saying:

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

So, the speaker tells him that he should always ask himself what he is willing in or out before building a wall and who may be offended by it. Soon after that the speaker says:

 

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.
That wants it down.”

The speaker emphasizes that unless it serves any practical purpose there is no need for a wall. Here the wall has a symbolic implication. It stands for something other than itself: the barrier between human contact and understanding. In other words, it indicates that one should have the desire not to be alone, walled in, but to be one with the rest of the world.

Robert Frost

“Fire and Ice” is another symbolic poem by Robert Frost. The speaker of the poem is dwelling on the two theories for the end of the world. Some contend that the world will perish in fire, some ice. But the speaker favors fire and upon second thought; he adds that ice is powerful enough to destroy the world. Here the fire symbolizes desire or passion while ice is symbolic of cold hatred. 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.”

Frost has been deservedly praised for his good sense to speak naturally and paint the thing as he sees it by Ezra Pound. To Cleanth Brooks, Frost’s themes are in some cases stated too explicitly to come within the symbolic mood. But, on the other hand, there are several poems, indeed the majority, which lend themselves to symbolic interpretation; which go beyond ‘the thing as he sees it’ to reveal facets of meaning and richness of texture. The superficial simplicity of Frost’s poem is deceptive, and the wealth of significance can be arrived at only through a symbolic interpretation.

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