Major Themes of Robert Frost's Poetry

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      Robert Frost's poems deal with Man in relation with the universe. Man's environment as seen by Frost is quite indifferent to man, not necessarily hostile but hot benevolent either. Man is thus alone and puny compared to the vastness of the universe. Such a view of "Man on earth confronting the total universe" is inevitably linked with certain themes which continuously appear in Frost's poetry.

Such a view of "Man on earth confronting the total universe" is inevitably linked with certain themes which continuously appear in Frost's poetry.
Robert Frost

      Theme of Man's Isolation and Alienation: Frost writes in Desert Places: "The loneliness includes me unawares". Man is essentially alone, as is borne out by the numerous solitary figures in Frost's poetry. We note that Frost is not so much concerned with depicting the cultural ethos of the New England people as with presenting them "caught up in a struggle with the elementary problem of existence." Examples abound, such as Mowing, Apple-Picking, The Pasture. The New England of Frost reflects his consciousness of "an agrarian society isolated within an urbanised world". Man is alone in the countryside or the metropolis (Acquainted with the Night). In Home Burial the lady suffers from a terrible sense of self-alienation, as well as alienation from her surroundings. And, more than the physical loneliness symbolised by Frost's solitary farmhouses in a rugged terrain, man suffers from the loneliness within - those 'desert places' of his own.

      Theme of Barriers: Man is alone, and he is always erecting and trying to bring down barriers between man and his immediate environment, between man and the vaster universe, between man and man.

      Theme of Human Limitations: Practically all of Frost's poems depict the sense of human limitation which is seen as the basic human predicament. Man is, indeed, alone and feels the sense or alienation because his limited faculties cannot comprehend the mysteries of the vast universe. Walle physical and real or mental and invisible - separate Man from Nature. Neither Out Far nor In Deep shows man's limitation vis-a-vis the mysterious universe. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening conveys the sense of an incomprehensible and indefinite universe. The man who would split the stars wonders at the end of the poem where it has all brought him. The universe seems chaotic and horrific (Design) because Man's limited faculties cannot comprehend its meaning. Frost's human beings are aware of the gap between the ideal and the actual (Mary in The Death of the Hired Man. for instance). The apple picker had set out on his work with great hopes, but faces disillusionment (After Apple-Picking). In some poems, however, Frost does indicate that man can transcend his limitations in his thought as in Sand Dunes.

      Theme of Extinction or Death also Runs through the Major Poems of Frost: In many a poem he writes of "sleep" which is associated with death. Fire and Ice is a noteworthy poem on destruction by excess of desire or hatred. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, After Apple-Picking, An Old Man's Winter Night - all these poems have a reference to death. Directive is a poem in which three of Frost's most obsessive themes - isolation, extinction and the final limitations of man - are blended. Each life is shown to be pathetic, because it wears away into death which it at last half welcomes, that even its salvation is make-believe, a plaything hidden among. the ruins of lost cultures. The poem dismay but it also consoles.

      Theme of Self-discovery: In most of Frost's poems, the speaker undergoes a process of self-discovery. The wood-chopper of Two Tramps in Mud Time realises by the end of the poem that he chops wood for love of work only, but love and need should not be separated.

      Theme of Affirmation: "A lover's quarrel with the world": Frost ultimately presents in his poetry, taken as a whole, not merely the isolation and alienation, but also the need for man to make the most of his situation. Aware of man's limitations, he yet desires man to explore and seek knowledge and truth, even if it proves evasive (as in For Once Then Something) Man, says Frost in most of his poems, should learn to accept things and his limitations cheerfully. He suggests stoical will and effort in the face of adversity as in West-Running Brok. In the face of the mystery and inscrutability of life there is necessity for determined human performance - that is one way to read "the promises to keep" and "miles to go before I sleep" of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

      Theme of Love: Central to Frost's Poems: If there is any force that can help man meet the challenges of the universe, his isolation and alienation, it is love. In several of Frost's poems, the significance of love - between man and woman, or friendly love - is brought out. It is when love breaks down or fades off, that life becomes unbearable - especially for the women in Frost's poetry.

      Conclusion: The major themes of Frost's poetry as discussed above are expressed through various devices. The symbolic significance invested in certain recurring objects - the stars, the snow, the woods - serve to bring home to the reader all the more vividly the position of Man in the Universe.

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