Symbolism of Robert Frost's Poetry

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      Concept of Symbolism: Symbolism is an indirect means of communication through which words assume, besides their connotative quality, evocative and emotive aspects as well. Thus the words used by a poet acquire a much deeper meaning than what they convey on the surface. A single word can be made to call up several associated ideas and images, and evoke certain emotional responses. A "rose" is a flower but it may be employed by a writer to evoke associated thoughts of beauty, delicacy, or even pride or violence, and the emotional overtones of admiration, love, compassion or anger and jealousy. It depends on the context and method in which the poet uses the term. The use of symbols gives a rich texture to a poem; furthermore, it is a means for the poet to communicate concepts which may, otherwise, be inexpressible. In Frost's poetry, there is undeniably a strong strain of symbolism.

Concept of Symbolism: Symbolism is an indirect means of communication through which words assume, besides their connotative quality, evocative and emotive aspects as well. Thus the words used by a poet acquire a much deeper meaning than what they convey on the surface. A single word can be made to call up several associated ideas and images, and evoke certain emotional responses.
Robert Frost

      Frost's Symbolism - Use of The Oblique Method: Frost's poem generally combine statement and analogy, metaphor, implication and symbolism. Current situations are made to suggest eternal and universal meanings. Trivial incidents have reflective implications. Even a poem such as Two Tramps in Mud Time, which explicitly states its theme, has a wider implication - the metaphor of farm labour is used to speak for the need of conscientious individualism. Frost's poems explore reality beneath their simple surface.

      Complexity and Different Layers of Meaning Through Symbolism: It has often been remarked that a Frost poem is "deceptively" simple. That is, indeed, true; for, beneath the simple narration or description on the surface, lie inexhaustible layers and facets of meaning. It is the use of the oblique method (in common with other modern poets such as T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats), the use of symbols, that invests a Frost poem witha rich complexity. Only a full understanding of Frost's symbols will enable a reader to unravel the intricate strains of meaning in any of his poems. It has been correctly pointed out that a Frost poem is inexhaustible. The delightful Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening renders itself to different interpretations to different readers, or even to the same reader on reading it again. It opens up a wide vista of thought and imagination. It is thus an illustration of Frost's contention that the meaning in a poem is a discovery for the poet as well as the reader.

      Frost's Regionalism and Pastoralism are of Symbolic Importance: In Frost's poems we find a realistic presentation of the scenes, characters and incidents common in rural New England, particularly North Boston. But this simple realism is made to convey complex reality in other areas of experience, and to suggest various levels of values and ideals. One such poem is Mending Wall which goes beyond the surface reality to the symbolic contemplation of the propriety or otherwise of barriers between man and man. Birches may presenta beautiful and true picture of the trees bent under the snow on a sunny winter morning. But the poem has more to offer, for it is a symbolic reference to the charm of escapism and the inevitable need to come back to earth and reality. The rural landscape of Frost's poetry is thus made to symbolise the world at large, and the Yankee characters are symbolic of general human nature. The emotional reflexes of these characters are symbolic of basic human responses. His themes of isolation and alienation thus become significant in that they symbolise the essence of the modern man's predicament.

      Frost's Technique of Synecdoche: A synecdoche is a figure of speech using a part to suggest the whole - and this is what Frost does with episodes and scenes in his poems. A trivial episode or a common scene is invested with such significance as to suggest the whole of life, the whole of the universe or the eternal human situation. The traveller viewing the woods fill up with snow feels that he must leave as there are "promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep". All the words suggest something of wider and deeper significance tharn their mere surface meaning. An episode is expanded to suggest the human predicament; the present moment represents all other time; the particular place describes the human situation as it has always existed.

      Frost's Natural Symbolism: While it is not possible to categorise Frost's symbolism, one may, all the same, agree with the view expressed by Warren Austin that Frost uses "natural symbolism". In most of his poems, Frost draws on the phenomena and objects of nature which become symbols of universal issues, ideas and feelings. Thus the natural scene of a bifurcating path in wood evokes the contemplation of the universal problem of choice (The Road not Taken). The natural image of spider on a flower is made to symbolise universal design and thus leads on to the question of the validity of a benevolent design in the universe (Design). while it is true that natural objects have always supplied poets with symbols, we cannot but notice that Frost's use of these objects as symbols is different, and relevant to the modern consciousness.

      The Symbolic Imagery and Significance of Frost's Poems: The symbolic and suggestive value of Frost's technique can be fully appreciated only on analysing some of his poems in detail for their use of symbols. Many of Frost's poems present images which assume symbolic significance.

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