Narrative Art in Robert Frost's Poetry

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      Introduction: North of Boston is Frost's major work exhibiting his narrative and dramatic skill. Most of the poems in this volume are narrations of tales in verse with vividly portrayed characters. Frost uses fable, parables and anecdotes. The Frostian narrative allows contemplation also, as in A Considerable Speck. The fable is a means to ridicule organizationalism in Departmental. Drama and narrative are mingled by Frost in poems such as The Witch of Coos and in Two Tramps in Mud Time. Themes of Frost's Narrative Poems: The narrative poems of Frost deal with the ordinary lives of ordinary people - the small pieces of village gossip some small event or folk tale. Out, Out is about a small village boy's losing his arm in a circular saw. In another poem, a woman quarrels with her husband over his apparent indifference to the death of their child. The Death of the Hired Man tells the story of an old farm-hand coming to his previous master's home to die. The apparent simplicity of the verse-tales should not blind us to Frost's psychological insight and technical skill.

Themes of Frost's Narrative Poems: The narrative poems of Frost deal with the ordinary lives of ordinary people - the small pieces of village gossip some small event or folk tale.
Robert Frost

      Vivid Individualization and Dramatic Intensity: The characters of Frost's narrative poems are vividly individualized. Frost's dramatic narratives have dramatic intensity which is produced by focussing on the moment of crisis. We may add that the favourite form with Frost is the dramatically imagined sketch or tale rather than the pure dramatic monologue. W.W. Gibson remarks: "Frost has turned the living speech of men and women into poetry and Mark Van Doren supplements it by saying that "his poems are people talking". There is a great deal of truth in these remarks. In many of Frost's poems it is the soliloquy of the author or a person put in the Frost poem. Even where another person taking part in the conversation is included he is not given any prominence as in the case of Mending Wall where the neighbor's words are merely quoted. The speech rhythms of our poet must be particularly taken into consideration for their highly functional set up in the poem concerned.

      The speaker in the poem The Road not Taken says in the closing lines:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

      Illumination of The Present Moment: The inner being of man in present action can be studied only when there is proper illumination of the present moment. The psychological crisis of the traveler in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is unfolded at the immediate moment. The traveler is charmed and battled in the woods in the same mariner as any ordinary man is bafflingly charmed by the complex situations in life and the world. The resolution of the crisis follows the decision of the traveler to go ahead which symbolically means "Man determines to act and fulfill his duties before death ultimately and inevitably".

      A Kind of "anagnorisis": The popular critic Willard Thorpe remarks thus: "The most dramatic moment in a Frostian poem is the kind of anagnorisis or denouement when the mundane fact achieves its full metaphysical significance"; such a fact in the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is the fact that the traveler stands between the woods and the frozen lake watching the woods fill up with snow. The mystery surrounding this fact is that of the eternal human situation. Here dramatic intensity is provided by the fixation of the attention on the moment of crisis. The opening lines of the small poem Design present assorted characters of death and blight mixed, ready to begin the morning right,

Like the ingredients of a witches' broth
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth
And dead Wings carried like a paper kite.

      The reader must remark how the poet records the sense impressions. How Frost maintains the atmosphere suited to every monologue is evident when we carefully scan the lines.

      Significant Choice: The choice of the speaker attains great significance in a Frostian monologue. The unorthodox farmer in the poem Mending Wall is clearly distinguished from the orthodox one in the matter of feeling and thoughts. The former feels as follows - "Something there is that doesn't love a wall", whereas the orthodox one is obsessed with: "Good fences make good neighbors".

      Insight and Objectivity: Lawrence Thompson says: "There is a pertinent paradox in the poet's craving for the intimacy of experience with guess, insight and, at the same time, his longing for separation which permits objectivity and perspective", Take the poem Birches. The withdrawal or desire to "get away from Earth awhile" is for the sake of perspective and objectivity.

      In this manner Frost's handling of the dramatic monologue reveals his creative sensitivity. The monologue is integrated with the content of the poem. The success in creativity in a monologue of Robert Frost is due to the fact that the reader is not consciously aware of a listener too.

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