Robert Frost Theme on Death
Throughout Frost’s poetry it is clear to envisage that Frost himself had experienced great loss. His poem’s take you through some of the stages of grief he had experienced at various points in his life. There is a certain cathartic quality to his poems, it is obvious Frost used the medium of creative writing as a release from his grief, enabling him to process his losses, to accept and heal from them.
His own father had died when Frost was just a boy himself and during his married life Frost found himself a father also to six offspring.
His life was touched by tragedy again as he and his wife lost two of these children. One child was still born the other died at three years old. The echoes of grief can be found in the poem Home burial. “Tell me about if it’s something human. Let me into your grief. I’m not so much unlike other folk as your standing there. This sections comes as the husband is pleading with the wife to communicate with him. The wife is inconsolable and is trying to flee and says to her husband “There you go sneering now!”
Frost breaks this line in the middle to suggest how profoundly at odds they are, how much psychic as well as literal space separates them. (Kilcup 1988. ) Again he pleads with her “A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead. Any rhetorical question demands, expects, the hearer’s automatic agreement; there is nothing it expects less than a particular, specific denial. The man’s “Can’t a man speak . . . ” means “Isn’t any man allowed to speak . . . ,” but her fatally specific answer, “Not you! ” makes it mean, “A man cannot—is not able to—speak, if the man is you, (Jarrell 1999.)
“She then implies how insensitive he has been over the child’s death and repeats the words to him that he had said after burying the child” Three foggy mornings and one rainy day will rot the best birch fence a man can build. ” Amy’s interpretation of her husband’s words in the kitchen reveals, ironically, that her husband may be far more subtle and sophisticated in expressing himself than she understands. Her question is really an accusation, and she believes not only that he would not care but that he is fundamentally incapable of caring (Faggen1997.)
The husband through his wife Amy’s eyes has lost the ability to interact with his wife, also his wife fails to see that in fact he was referring to the child’s death by his comment. As a farmer close to nature he was referring to the unfairness of it all, that no matter how hard you try fate plays a part in everything. The fence being a metaphor of how a perfectly strong structure can be taken by bad weather. In the case of the baby’s life it taken by death. In the case of this poem both the husband and wife had misinterpreted each other’s grieving.
Failing to appreciate each other’s pain in that process. In the poem “Death of a Hired Man”, there are four characters. Mary and Warren, partners or married it does not actually state this in the poem. Harold a young farm hand and the hired man Silas who seems to be the main character of the poem. In comparison to the couple in Home Burial and the obvious lack of empathy they seem to have for each other, Mary and Warren seem close and communicate effortlessly with each other. This is reflected in the opening verses of “death of A Hired Man”.
It seems they have a relationship of mutual understanding between them. “When she heard his step, Mary was obviously familiar with Warren enough to know it was his foot fall without first seeing him. This is the opposite in Home burial obviously the wife is trying to flee from her husband a marked comparison between the two relationships. Silas has returned to this couple to die, when Mary comes across him he is “Huddled against a barn door fast asleep. ” In the middle of winter this must have appeared strange to Mary.
She goes on to describe his appearance to Warren, “a miserable sight, frightening too “I didn’t recognize him-I wasn’t looking for him-and he’s changed, “This describes a change in Silas’s appearance enough to shock Mary who has known him a number of years. May be he has grown thin and worn looking. The verse paints a mental picture, you can visualize poor withered Silas curled up in the doorway of the barn and the look on Mary’s face on finding him there. Warren asks Mary if he said anything she replied “but little,” Mary describes his speech to Warren almost in-coherent.
This symbolises the demise of Silas as he its unable to string a sentence together. Warren is confused by this and refers to a disagreement between Silas and Harold Wilson. Wilson a young boy and Silas were good work colleagues. Harold had other ideas and went into education Silas tried everything to coax Harold back to working the farm but with little success. Silas frowned upon formal education this shows through in this verse, “He said he couldn’t make the boy believe He could find water with a hazel prong-which showed how much good school had ever done him.
Warren says at one point “well those days trouble Silas like a dream. ” Maybe Silas had regret in his life, he cut a lonely person roaming the land looking for work. His own family were well to do and educated, his brother is quoted as a Director of a bank. They are shades of Silas not been good enough in some way in his family’s eyes. Maybe he viewed Warren and Mary as family at one point Warren states” he won’t be made ashamed to please his brother. ” The simile between Silas and the stray hound that came from the woods and given a home on their farm paints the couple as empathetic and caring of nature.
Maybe this is the reason why Silas chose them to die with rather than alone. With all the problems that arose between Silas and Harold while working for Warren and Mary. Mary still found it in her heart to give him a bed for the night. Mary asks Warren to check on Silas while she sits a watches the night sky. Mary is particularly watching the clouds and says to warren “I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud will hit or miss the moon. ” “It hit the moon. ” This line symbolises the point as Warren looks in a Silas and realises Silas has died in his sleep.
Frost reflects the mood of the poem with this short line, you can almost hear the cloud exploding off the moon as warren realises Silas is dead. Warren returns to Mary “Dead”, was all he said. The ending of the poem also shows the impact of death, as Warren silently sits beside Mary and he only gives a one-word answer of “Dead”. This emphasizes the impact of Silas’ death and what it means to the couple. The bluntness of his reaction gives a feeling of grief and disbelief (Study Mode, ND) In both these poems Frost deals with death in an intimate way, you can tell by the style of each verse he is writing from experience.
The mood and tone of each poem is dramatic and it is as though you are a fly on the wall actually witnessing the events that unfold in each verse from beginning to end. Again in the poem “Out Out”, there is a comparison between the disbelief of the wife in her reaction towards her husband, at his perceived lack of care towards the child’s death in the poem, “Home Burial,” and the reaction of the gathered crowed after the poor boy perishes.
As it states in Out Out, “And they, since they, (the gathered crowd,) Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. Certainly there was sorrow, mourning and a tearful funeral, but none of that pertains to the poet’s message. The living have lives to lead (Wood 2008. )This is the last line of the poem after the poor victim, 16yr old Raymond Fitzgerald dies in the accident of horrific injuries caused by a buzz saw. The poor child bleeds to death after his hand is severed by the saw.
Robert Frost clearly accomplished great things as a poet. After a long and successful career as a professor teaching poetry, he went on to win The Pulitzer Prizes twice for his literary works. This gentle farmer-poet” whose platform manner concealed the ever-troubled, agitated private man who sought through each of his poems “a momentary stay against confusion. ” (Burnshaw. S 2000. ) Frost became the voice of the ordinary American and to this day is still held in the highest regard even after his death.