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Robert Frost Breaking The Walls - Symbolism

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Foreword - A poet named frost

The mark of a great poet is his ability to engage the reader so that they analyse their own lives. Robert Lee Frost (1874 - 1963) - an influential American poet often associated with rural New England - is brilliant at this and uses poetry as a platform for the expression of his own general ideology. Frost's belief that human society was often chaotic and stressful and that the meaning of life is elusive, has been promoted in his poetry. Frost looked to nature, whose undying beauty and simplicity did not force him into a strict, moulded society, but represented freedom from life and its constant stresses of family and work as a metaphor to show the stark comparison. This ideology derives from Frost's childhood - where strict rules and punishments were a normal occurrence. When Frost's first poem was published professionally to rave reviews, he devoted himself entirely to his art by moving to England - where a combination of the natural beauty of the English farm life, sole determination, and pure talent made him one of the most recognisable figures in American history - inspiring this anthology - "Robert Frost - Breaking the Walls." Some of the famous poems included in this anthology consist of, "The Road Not Taken", "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening", "Mending Wall" and "After Apple Picking.".

"The Road Not Taken" reflects Frost's opinion that society is stressful, as the speaker agonizes over a life decision represented by the division of a road. "The Road Not Taken" involves 'life's choices', and can be directly related to Frost's own life and experiences. It begins with;" Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." The yellow woods are the first example of where Robert Frost has used nature as a means of expressing his feelings. These first two lines set the pessimistic theme of the poem as they tell the audience that Frost is now at the autumn (near end) of his life, and that he has a very hard choice to make. When Frost stopped at the fork in the road he looked down both of the paths to help him make his choice, but he found the ends of the paths to be intangible. The nature metaphor - shrubbery - obscured his view from seeing the consequences of this decision. He becomes frustrated that he cannot find the meaning of life in nature - which he feels should hold the answers. The poem is a monologue of Frost's life and as the poem was published in 1916 it can be linked to the time when Frost and his family owned a farm in New Hampshire. The farm was failing badly and Frost was finding it hard to make the payments. He had to make the decision wether to battle on with the well worn path of struggling on with the farm hoping to recuperate his losses, or following one less worn - to move on and seek his fortunes elsewhere. Frost of course took the latter, deciding to go against the norms of society, which he seemed to find unjust yet he is still unsure if he has chosen the right path, thus the poem ends ambiguously, encouraging the audience to question their own lives.

Frost's poetry often expresses his disenchantment with the pressures of society and the need to take time out, or rebel against these pressures is evident in "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening." From the year 1899 onwards, when frost was working full time as a teacher and a farm hand, he decided to quit these well celebrated jobs and devote himself to the penniless existence of poetry writing (R.H. Winnick, http://www.robertfrost.org/bio.html). Again using the metaphor nature, Frost relates his poem to this life experience. The stop in the snowy woods resembles the break from work and society that he decided to take. In the second stanza he mentions his horse;

"My little horse must think it queer

To stop......He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake"

While the woods represent the mystery and excitement of nature - the poetry he could be writing, the freedom he never received in his early years, the horse becomes the symbol of the society that Frost came to hate. Society pressures him to get back to work, reminding him that he hasn't the time to be exploring the woods when there is work to be done. By stopping the horse to appreciate the scenery he is fighting society's stranglehold and looking on towards more exciting potentials such as writing poetry full time. He invites the reader to question their own values and the meaning of their own life.

Frost was not afraid to expose the chaotic societies of his time in Mending Wall, a poem that discusses East West Relations during the 1960's. The theme of the poem is to "let go of old fashioned values and beliefs and move on towards new goals and achievements." Throughout the poem, Frost repetitively asks the same question 'what is the need for a wall?' The reply he gets from the man on the other side is; "Good fences make good neighbours." This old fashioned saying affects him deeply as he feels need to

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