A prominent place in the history of American literature belongs to Robert Frost. Many consider him one of the most notable and significant poets of the 20th century. Frost’s contribution to American literature is enormous and includes experiments with the poetical form, revelation of new themes and usage of innovative expressive tools and means. At the same time, poetry of Frost is comprehensive and familiar for the target audience due to its focus on the individuality and natural life. The outstanding talent of Robert Frost was recognized during his lifetime, and his fame and acceptance resulted in numerous prizes and awards in the sphere of literature. Nowadays, the poems of Frost do not lose their topicality and importance and continue to amaze thousands of readers (O'Brien 3). The secret of Frost’s success consists in the harmonic combination of lyrical motives, modern themes and innovative poetry tools, which witnesses his talent and define his special place in the world literature.
Themes and Motives of Frost’s Poetry
The poetic heritage of Robert Frost impresses with its diversity and variety of topics, ideas and values. His works skillfully combine the pictures of rural life and urban development, natural surrounding and social background, individual dramas and role of humanity in general. Moreover, the author frequently explores deep philosophic and psychological themes in the depictions of familiar settings and simple objects. All these features define the value and importance of Frost’s poetry and prove its never-ending actuality and popularity. Among the main themes of Frost’s poetry, the following topics should be considered.
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To start with, Frost is known for the outstanding images of natural life (Monteiro 25). In fact, the majority of his poems focus on the description of environment and natural surroundings. The author often provides detailed characteristics of different plants, animals and landscapes, which creates a feeling of involvement and immersion into the lyrical world. At the same time, it is important to mention that the author managed to deter from stereotypical images of pastoral life and the routine of rural areas (Kemp 30).
On the contrary, his poems focus on new motives and ideas. For example, the poem “After Apple-Picking” focuses on the theme of permanent lifecycle, the processes of blooming and fading and inevitability of changes (Owens 35). Another poem “Once by the Pacific” dwells on the destructive side of nature and describes disorders caused by it. These motives can be viewed as innovative in literature since previous authors tended to associate nature with the countryside works, agriculture and complete lack of urban features. Frost’s images of nature do not oppress individualities but create a background for revelation of their potential. Actually, many of his poems (“Birches” and “The Sound of Trees”) use nature as an inspirational element which can increase individual strength and self-reliance (Kemp 43).
The second important theme in Frost’s poetry is dedicated to the issue of communication. According to the author, sufficient conversations and interpersonal relations are the remedy for isolation and solitude (Shukla 169). The author argues that people can solve many problem and misunderstandings by communicating and interacting with each other. This idea is clearly revealed in the poem “Home Burial” that describes some tragic and negative events in human social life. The poem teaches that people should pay more attention and efforts to speak with each other and learn to solve problems in the process of communication.
Another theme of Robert Frost’s poetry, which is closely connected with the previous one, is the motive of loneliness and solitude. Frost paid great attention to the issue of human individuality, depression and the feeling of alienation and solitude. In the poems “The Sound of Trees” and “Fire and Ice”, the lyrical hero is suffering from social exclusion and escape. However, in this case, solitude is regarded as a driving force for changes and further development. The author supposes that individuals detached from the social setting can understand the sense of life and realize their purposes and thus find harmony with themselves and natural world.
At the same time, loneliness can acquire some negative or even destructive characteristics, as in the poem “The Lockless Door”. In this poem, the lyrical character is so oppressed by long years of isolation that he is afraid of making any steps to social contacts and interaction. Isolation deprived him of all positive features and strongly damaged his personality. Therefore, Frost addresses the questions of social support and the role of individuals in the social system. He wants to emphasize the necessity to remain humans in all situations.
In addition, the author addresses many psychological dilemmas and individual conflicts caused by imbalance between personal desires and duties, possibilities and aspirations, imagination and reality, etc. For example, in the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, the lyrical hero wants to stay in the forest and admire the snowfall though he clearly realizes his duties before his family and community. The same situation is described in the poem “The Sound of Tree”, which describes a person willing to leave his residence and wander in the woods. In both poems, the characters do not dare to leave their communities for the sake of their families’ well-being and health. However, the endings of poems assume that their aspirations are not dead.
Frost also addresses the theme of childhood versus adulthood. Thus, childhood is associated with imagination and fantasy, whereas adults represent the world of rationality and reality. The author argues that people lack freedom and imagination that are typical of children. He states that social surrounding ruins dreams and desires, making people focus on their daily duties and tasks. The poem “Birches” describes a man who wants to return to the childhood, climb the trees and admire the surrounding world instead of following tedious daily routine. Analogically, the poem “Out, Out – ” describes a small boy who is deprived of his childhood for the sake of social duties and work.
Frost argues that people should preserve an ability to dream, imagine and express their fantasies. Social routine destroys creativity and aspirations, forcing people to perform monotonous tasks and work for common welfare. However, such a situation does not give any chances for self-development and self-actualization. Therefore, the author claims that people should involve imagination in the real world and behave like children in order not to lose uniqueness and creativity.
It is also important to mention about the theme of choice, which can be frequently observed in Frost’s poems. The author points to the fact that each individual has to do a life choice based on his or her personal values, aspirations and desires. The choice should not depend on any social prejudices or stereotypes since it has to reflect personality and outlook. The poem “The Road Not Taken” dwells on this topic and provides a metaphoric and symbolic context for it.
“The Road Not Taken” is a poem about two kinds of roads – real paths, which people beat every day, and metaphorical roads, connoting the ways of life. Actually, the whole life consists of choices, and every little step may change the future course of events. Individuals cannot ask anyone to assist them in making this option. They should rely only on themselves so that not to blame anyone if something goes wrong. Some choices are easy, the others are difficult; and the human’s nature is so mysterious that even if a person makes a choice, he or she will regret about it sooner or later and think that everything might have been different.
Overall, the poetry of Frost reveals many important topics and ideas. The critics argue that Frost’s poetry provides a never-ending ground for new researches and investigations. The other themes of Frost’s poetry include such sub-topics as decision/indecision, individualism, caution, commitment, accepting a challenge, dreams, hopes, plans in life, man and the natural world, exploration and ambiguity (Batool et al. 55).
Robert Frost’s Poetic Forms
Robert Frost used different poetic forms and structures in his works. He presented himself as a universal poet who contributed to many genres and forms of poetry. Such a diversity of poetic forms witnesses his unique talent and diversity of interests and poetic choices. Moreover, the poetry of Frost matches reading tastes of a wide audience because it explores in a variety of themes, motives and forms.
To start with, Frost significantly contributed to all three main groups of poetry, which include lyric, narrative and dramatic poems (Gioia 185). The majority of Frost’s poems do not follow a strict plot but focus on the reflection of emotional state and inner world of the lyrical hero. For example, the poems “My November Guest”, “Mowing” and “A Late Walk” focus mainly on the transmission of feelings and atmosphere rather than develop a certain plot.
At the same time, Frost wrote some narrative poems that preserved a strict structure and informed about certain events and situations. Narrative poems of Robert Frost tell readers stories from the daily life and conclude with some relevant ideas or recommendations. The examples of such poems are “Out, Out – ”, “Love and a Question”, “Brown's Descent” and others. These poems combine the description of external events and inner worries of the main characters (Gioia 185).
Finally, Frost wrote some dramatic poems, which revealed some prominent moral and ethical issues through the description of a range of events. For instance, the poems “Death of the Hired Man”, “Home Burial” and “The Witch of Coos” dwell on some tragic or negative events and discus some social or individual catastrophes. It is important to admit that these poems are highly emotional and expressive.
Robert Frost used such stanza forms as couplet, triplets, quatrains, quintets, sestets, sonnets and blank verses. In other words, the poetry of Frost is highly diverse due to experiments with the form and content. Interestingly, Frost was equally successful in writing fixed and blank verses as well as different kinds of stanza. All these features claim his unique talent and special place in the global literature.
To sum up, Robert Frost is an outstanding figure in the history of American literature. His poetic experiments, combination of realism and modernism, a variety of forms and structures and a great amount of themes and topics revealed in his poems make Frost a prominent poet admired by the global audience. Frost depicted many notable social issues, ethical and moral dilemmas, personal dramas and emotional conditions of individuals. Form this standpoint, Frost’s poetry inspires people, motivates them to be ready for changes and make right decisions in their lives.