What lessons in life does Robert Frost teach us and how does he do this?
The American poet Robert Frost teaches us about lessons he has learnt in his life through the use of his poems. In the poem, The Wood-pile Frost attempts to attack conformity and show how vital individuality is. Through the second poem, The Road not Taken, Frost conveys importance of taking choices seriously, and that if we don’t we could end up regretting our decisions.
The poem The Wood-pile, can relate to the western world, this world in recent times has become a conformists paradise. Everyone is the identical, the words unique and individual poses no real meaning in this New World and it is reaching the point where we are almost taken off shelves as if we were a massed produced product. This is highlighted in the beginning of the poem. “The view was all in lines, Straight up and down of all slim trees”. The next line supports this theme of conformity “Too much alike to mark or name a place by,/ So as to say for certain I was here,/ Or somewhere else…”. Here the persona is confused because he acknowledges that he is in a different place, yet because of the image appears totally in separable as everywhere he has been he cannot distinguish where he is or even orientate himself.
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The bird is introduced, Frost designed the bird represent a change in the poem, as we jump from the western world to the unknown, unexplored areas of the earth. The bird symbolises the distrust between two different worlds, containing different people and cultures. “He was careful/ To put a tree between us…”. Frost personifies this bird in 2 ways, giving him the power to think; demonstrated by “He thought that I was after him for a feather” and has designed him to act as a lure highlighted by “One flight off sideways would have undeceived him”. It is human nature, curiosity, which eludes the persona from the bird luring him. He then forgets the bird when he realises he is in a different world symbolised by the “pile of wood”
Here the persona can be thought of as an explorer, he has made a miraculous discovery of an ancient race, which is symbolised by the cord of maple. This is conveyed by “… It was older sure than this year’s cutting,/ Or even last year’s or the year’s before”. He persona inspects it and describes it, Frost stresses through the persona’s description its unique and different character, “The wood was grey and the bark warping off it” in contrast to the world of “straight up and down”. Though even over the persona’s admiration for this race, the measurement “…four by four by eight…” reiterates his imperialism as attempting to apply some sort of worth or valuation upon it, by which degrades the persona’s status. Really it should be looked at as a priceless piece of carving that is to be placed on the mantle piece, not on the fire.
“…On one side was a tree, Still growing, and on one a stake and prop, These latter about to fall…” This phrase Frost uses imagery to pose an interesting contrast between technology and nature. The word use of “still growing” this implies that it is inevitable to stop nature from growing, and that it is taking over this lost civilisation. In this final stanza we learn that this is an extinct race portrayed by “…who…/Could so forget his handiwork on which/ He spent himself, the labour of his axe/ And leave it there far from a useful fireplace.” The persona recognises that something as unique as this maple, should not be out in the middle of no where rotting, it should be in a museum for all to set their eyes on, in stead of in hiding. Presented by “To warm the frozen swamp as best it could/ With the slow smokeless burning of decay”. This is how Frost stresses his theme of individuality.
Imagery is important in the poem The Road not Taken. The first image Frost illustrates is of “two roads diverge”, This image of two roads symbolises choice, whether to go right or left. When comparing this against real life decision it appears that it is an over simplification of the complex questions that confront us everyday. However, Frost has intentionally done this demonstrate in an easy and understandable manner for the reader. The second image is of “a yellow wood” this being a metaphor, Frost has again used nature as a metaphor for life, as he has done in many of his other poems. The Wood-pile and After Apple-picking. This use of nature as a metaphor enables the readers to relate deeply with this poem and thus will come out with grater understanding of life.
The first stanza describes the choice before the persona. At first sight the persona wishes to experience both, as it would be the easier option than deciding upon which to travel. “And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveller”. Yet physically this is impossible and is therefore faced with the two paths and can only travel one. Hence he advances to the next step, which is assessing his options “long I stood/…looked down one…/To where it bent in the undergrowth”. Frost is conveying here that choices are important, and we cannot take them to lightly other wise we may choose the wrong one and hence, be faced with a harder challenge or have to back track and start from scratch.
In the second stanza the persona immediately launches into a decision, here the temp begins to rise portraying optimism with his choice. The persona chooses the second path over the first, he personifies his reasons for this “…It was grassy and wanted wear”. Though ironically he realises that they are “…Really about the same”. Frost is demonstrating through this stanza that weighing up pros and cons before the decision is vital in making the right decision for you.
“Oh, I kept the first for another day”. This quotation is from the third stanza, the persona is defending himself against his conscience. As his conscience speculate on whether the first path would have held a better future for him. But this quote is a contradiction to what comes next, as the persona faces up to reality and accepts the truth. “Yet knowing how way leads onto way,/ I doubt if I should ever come back”. Frost is explaining how one choice leads onto another and another etc, then it is almost impossible to return to that same decision. So be careful about the decisions we make to ensure that we have no regrets about them.
The final stanza has a strong sense of time passed from the first stanza to this stanza. It begins with the persona feeling emotions of nostalgia, “I shall be telling this with a sigh”. As if he had realised he chose the harder or incorrect road, but this regret will always eventuate, because human nature leads us to believe that the grass looks greener from the other side. We need to permit ourselves recognise that this isn’t always correct and we should ignore these feelings otherwise in the future we will fall into a depressed state and begin, as the persona is, to question our life’s choices.
“Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverge in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference”.
The repetition of “I” and the pause in between produce strong emotions of regret in the reader.
Frost successfully attacks the growing conformity in our modern world and proves that individuality is a special quality to have through the poem The Wood-pile. The Road not Taken explains in a simple manner that we must be careful and assess all our options before making a decision and not to make them in haste otherwise we may later on in life be faced with emotions of nostalgia and regret.