Robert Frost:His Life and His Poems
Have you ever read a poem that deals with a broad aspect of life? Robert Frost wrote about this in his poem. “The Road Not Taken.” Frost uses descriptions of nature in a New England setting to open the readers’ eyes to the endless possibilities of what would have happened if they did something different. Through analysis of the poem and its critiques, one can understand what kind of poet and person Frost is.
Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874. His parents were Isabel Moodie and William Prescott Frost, Jr. His father drank and gambled a lot, which upset the whole family. In 1875, he became the city editor of the San Francisco Daily Evening Post. On June 25, 1876, Robert’s sister Jeannie was born.
In 1879, Frost entered kindergarten but came home after one day because of nervous stomach pain and did not return afterward. The next year, he tried to go to the first grade, but dropped out again. The same happened the next year after that. He was home schooled. In 1883, Frost heard some voices while he was alone. His mom tells him that he shares her gift of “second hearing” and “second sight,” which is the idea that some people hear spirits or ghosts, when no one else can. In 1885 his father died. He died of tuberculosis on May 5, leaving his family with only $8.00 after all his expenses were paid. After his death, the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts to live with their grandparents. Robert and his sister Jeannie did not like them because they were so strict.
While his younger sister was entering fourth grade, he got tested and entered third grade. The next year, the family moved to Salem Depot, New Hampshire, where his mom started teaching fifth through eighth grade. In 1888, he passed the entrance exam so that he could enter Lawrence High School. The next year, he finished at the top of his class. After that year, he started really getting into poetry. His first published poem was “La Noche Triste,” in the Lawrence High School Bulletin. Then the next month, “The Song of the Wave” was published.
In 1891, Frost passed the entrance exams to get into Harvard. When he was there, he met and fell in love with Elinor Miriam White. The next year he became engaged to her. Since he had to depend on his grandparents for money, he entered Dartmouth College because it was cheaper, and because his grandparents blamed Harvard for all of his father’s drinking and gambling problems. That December, he left college because he was bored with it and wanted something to do. In 1893, he taught a rowdy eighth grade glass for a couple of weeks. Then he tried to convince Elinor to marry him before he went to St. Lawrence University in New Yord, but she said no. Through the rest of the 1890’s, Frost worked as a teacher, farmer, and an editor. During this time is when he collected lots of material that would make the themes of his most famous poems.
In 1912, Frost moved to England for a while. He was very well received there. Everyone liked his poetry and that was where he started to get famous. He met some other famous poets there, like William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound.
When Frost returned to the United States from England, he started to receive many awards. When he came back, he came out with some volumes of poetry and received critical acclaim for them. He continued to write and received lots of literary awards and honors from the United States government and American universities. One of his proudest achievements was when he got to recite his work at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. He also represented the United States on some official missions. At the end of his career, he was very popular publicly, but the poetry collections he was coming out with were not receiving such huge reviews as they used to.
Through 1962 and 1963, Frost’s health started to go downhill. He got pneumonia and was hospitalized, and then doctors found cancer in his prostate and bladder. On December 23, he had an embolism. ON January 7, he suffered another one. He died on January 29, 1963.
All of Frost’s poems have a New England setting and feel to them, most of them having to do with Vermont and New Hampshire. He was inspired greatly by New England’s “landscapes, folkways, and speech mannerisms. His poetry is known for its plain language, conventional and graceful style” (World Book 1). He was influenced a lot by classical poets, especially Horace. Some people like him because he is such a straightforward writer, even though he cannot always be easily read. People who read his poems have to be ready for a “slyness” to his poetry (World Book 2). In his longer poems, he writes more “complex subjects in a complex style” (World Book 2). Even though he restricts himself to New England settings, he does not limit himself when it comes to the moods. In his poems, he writes using a lot of different moods.
“The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost is an enjoyable poem that is a metaphor for life. On a superficial level, this poem is about someone walking through the woods, coming to two possible ways to go, and then choosing one. The narrator chooses the one less traveled, and later says that they do not regret it. The underlying meaning of “The Road Not Taken” is that the narrator is using the woods and paths as a metaphor for the choices people have to make in life. That is the main theme of the poem. It is obvious from lines six to ten that the narrator took the path that was less traveled. In other words, the narrator did not follow the crowd, but instead made his own choice.
The structure of the poem is that the narrator is talking about how he had two choices, chose one, and then later in his life looked back and realized he did not regret it. The poem is broken up by spaces, which shows the reader that time has passed, further illustrating the fact that the narrator is looking back at this particular choice in his life. It shows that time has passed because the speaker is talking in the past tense at the end of the poem.
There are many poetic devices in “The Road Not Taken.” The first one that jumps out at the reader is the use of figurative language. Figurative language is language that is not intended to be interpreted in a literal sense. One knows this from reading the poem because the poem is meant to be read with the idea that it has an underlying meaning. It is not meant to be read as a story about a man walking in the woods and having to decide which trail he wants to take. Frost meant for the reader to read what is happening in the story and then to interpret the idea that it is a metaphor for life’s choices. Another poetic device Frost uses is imagery. Imagery is words or phrases that create pictures or images in the reader’s mind. Frost uses imagery when he describes the setting (the woods) to get the reader to see it in their mind. This is obvious from lines one to five when he is writing about the “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” He describes the woods, but does it in a way that the reader will understand that the two roads symbolize two choices.
Critics almost always agree about what the themes in “The Road Not Taken” are, but they are not as consistent in evaluating it as a poem and as a success. Some critics praise Frost’s poem. In an article published in South Atlantic Quarterly, John T. Ogilvie suggests that the road is a metaphor for the “writerly life.” (Ogilvie 1) He says that “the choice the speaker makes here leads deeper into the wood which…though they hold a solitary privacy, impose a stern isolation endured not without cost” (Ogilvie 1). Ogilvie is going into the emotions portrayed in the poem.
Other critics are pretty harsh about the poem and about Frost as a poet in general. In an article in The Yale Review, Isadore Traschen accuses Frost of “unrestrained sentimentality” (Traschen 1). Traschen is agreeing that most people are attracted to this poem because its ideas are familiar and many people prefer romantic ideas to realistic ones.
Through the use of poetic devices, figurative language and imagery, Frost has written a beautiful poem. Although some critics criticize him for writing somewhat of a “romantic” style poem, it does not matter because it is based as a metaphor for life. Whether it sounds like it is based on romantic ideas or not, the idea of how people face life-affecting choices everyday still holds true. The idea of life choices is not unrealistic at all. In contrast to Isadore Traschen’s critique, the only unrealistic thing would be if people did not have to make choices every day, whether the idea of it is presented as a metaphor or not.
In conclusion, the theme in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is how people are presented with many life affecting choices everyday, and that whether the choices come out the right way or not, everyone has to live with them.. Some are life changing, and some are small. The poem is in somewhat of a romantic style, even though it is a reality-based idea. The poetic devices in the poem add to getting the story across by making it a metaphor for life. By doing that the reader is given a better, more interesting way of thinking about what the poem’s point it.
Bibliography/Works Cited Page
Robert Frost (1874-1963). Exploring Poetry. 1994