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Death in Robert Frost's Poems
Robert Frost was an American poet who was known for his literary works (poems) that depict the theme of "dark meditations" and psychological complexity in the subjects of his poem, according to an article by the web site Academy of American Poets (1997). The article's reference to Robert Frost's use of theme pertaining to 'dark meditations' will be discussed in this paper, as three poems from Frost will be analyzed in accordance to the said theme. The theme that this paper will focus on is the theme of death, and the poems that will be analyzed for this theme are the following: "Home Burial," "After Apple- picking," and "Fire and Ice." These poems are examples of Frost's dark meditation-themed poems, because all of these poems use the element of death as the primary focus of the narrative of the poem. However, despite the similarities in theme in these poems, Frost had used various kinds of situation and concept of death for the subjects of each poem. This paper will discuss the theme of death in the three poems in the following manner: the discussion of fear and sorrow of death in "Home Burial," the fear of death because of unaccomplished tasks here on earth in the poem "After Apple-Picking," and life after death in the poem "Fire and Ice." Passages from the poems will be used as evidence of the said themes.
The poem "Home Burial" illustrates the grief and sorrow that a couple feels and experiences after they had lost their child. The poem is a dialogue between the man and the woman, who are also arguing with each other over the death of their child despite the fact that they grieve (especially the woman) and felt sorrow over the death of the young child. The first part of the poem started with the man asking his wife what she's doing, and the woman displaying a look of fear. In this part of the poem, one would think that the woman is afraid of the dead, especially since they're in a graveyard. However, a further scrutiny of their dialogue will reveal that the woman is actually afraid of the man, and she's afraid because the man had caught her in the act of looking over an object, which is actually the 'mound,' wherein her dead child had been buried. The part wherein the man asked the woman about what she's doing/looking at, and the discovery of the 'mound' where the woman's child lies gave out a sorrowful cry from the woman: "Don't, don't, don't, don't." The reiteration of the 'don'ts' is Frost's way of expressing the woman's grief and inability to accept her child's death. Further into the poem, the conflict between the two, and the woman's anger on her husband gave out as she pointed the blame to the man for his somewhat indifferent behavior about their child's death: "You can't because you don't know how / If you had any feelings, you that dug / With your own hand -- how could you? -- his little grave..." This accusing statement by the woman shows how she was unable to accept her child's death. Also, the man's gradually developing fear about the woman's condition (too much sorrow and grief) had made him also feel fear in a different way, and he acknowledges his wife's accusations in an effort to calm her and relieve her of her sorrow (towards the child) and grief (towards him). The poem finds resolution in a very uncomfortable and sad way, and the couple does not reach the point of reconciliation when the poem neared its end. In fact, the woman was in the act of leaving the man behind, leaving the man whom she thinks is totally indifferent and does not share with her the sorrow that she feels over their child's death. The man becomes powerless and defeated, as his wife had left him despite his threats and protests.
Home Burial" is an example of the 'dark meditations' Frost was known for. Frost uses death, sorrow, and grief to illustrate how these elements create fear in a person's being. In fact, the sorrow and grief that the woman shows toward her husband is Frost's way of expressing fear or terror in people -- the fear that we feel is the terror, the human fear of not being able to alleviate someone else's sorrow and anger. Death, in fact, is not…[continue]
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