The Subverted Flower : by Robert Frost || Summary and Analysis

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The Subverted Flower

She drew back; he was calm:
“It is this that had the power.”
And he lashed his open palm
With the tender-headed flower.
He smiled for her to smile,
But she was either blind
Or willfully unkind.
He eyed her for a while
For a woman and a puzzle.
He flicked and flung the flower,
And another sort of smile
Caught up like fingertips
The corners of his lips
And cracked his ragged muzzle.
She was standing to the waist
In golden rod and brake,
Her shining hair displaced.
He stretched her either arm
As if she made it ache
To clasp her – not to harm;
As if he could not spare
To touch her neck and hair.
“If this has come to us
And not to me alone -”
So she thought she heard him say;
Though with every word he spoke
His lips were sucked and blown
And the effort made him choke
Like a tiger at a bone.
She had to lean away.
She dared not stir a foot,
Lest movement should provoke
The demon of pursuit
That slumbers in a brute.
It was then her mother’s call
From inside the garden wall
Made her steal a look of fear
To see if he could hear
And would pounce to end it all
Before her mother came.
She looked and saw the shame:
A hand hung like a paw,
An arm worked like a saw
As if to be persuasive,
An ingratiating laugh
That cut the snout in half,
And eye become evasive.
A girl could only see
That a flower had marred a man,
But what she could not see
Was that the flower might be
Other than base and fetid:
That the flower had done but part,
And what the flower began
Her own too meager heart
Had terribly completed.
She looked and saw the worst.
And the dog or what it was,
Obeying bestial laws,
A coward save at night,
Turned from the place and ran.
She heard him stumble first
And use his hands in flight.
She heard him bark outright.
And oh, for one so young
The bitter words she spit
Like some tenacious bit
That will not leave the tongue.
She plucked her lips for it,
And still the horror clung.
Her mother wiped the foam
From her chin, picked up her comb,
And drew her backward home.

She drew back; he was calm: “It is this that had the power.” And he lashed his open palm With the tender-headed flower. He smiled for her to smile, But she was either blind Or willfully unkind. He eyed her for a while For a woman and a puzzle.
The Subverted Flower

Analysis

Introduction:

      The Subverted Flower by Robert Frost is a strange but powerful one from A Witness Tree. It gives in a dramatic and sharp manner a glimpse into the inner struggles with instincts, emotions and thoughts undergone by a man. It is a dark fairy story. Exploring inner dimension of a man is the main concern here in the poem.

Summary:

      In The Subverted Flower the theme is a man's sexual advances to a girl who is instinctively repelled and scared stiff by them. Frost manages the poem very skillfully. He projects her feelings of terror and disgust and along with it, he also gives expression to the man's point of view. There is no resolution as such and so the end appears harrowing to some people. Dramatically the poem plunges into the crucial moment of a lover's quarrel. The theme grows from the girl's misunderstanding the boy's physical desires to be repulsive. She interprets her lover's inclinations as those of a beast. The boy, lashing his palm with a flower, assumes that the girl is sexually stirred, but she only gets frightened into stillness - lest movement should provoke 'the demon of pursuit that slumbers in a beast'. Ironically, it is the girl who appears as a wild animal under the sexual threat. The girl neither understands the symbolism of the flower or the healthy desire of the young man.

Critical Appreciation:

      In The Subverted Flower, Frost treats of a disturbing aspect of love. The girl in the poem misunderstands the healthiness and normality of the young man's desires, and sees him as a beast. At the end, ironically, it is the girl who gives the impression of something animalistic. This is, perhaps, the only poem in which Frost deals with the passion of physical love. It is most unlike any poem written by Frost. For once, his darker vision seems to be released. The style is that of a ballad narrative, but it is not quite clear in the poem whose point of view is given in a particular line.

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