The most obvious and blatant image in the poem is, of course, nature. The poem contains the wood pile itself, a swamp, winter scenery (snow), and birds as well as the narrator’s fascination with communicating with such creatures. The narrator in this poem appears to be exploring nature, people, etc., and doesn’t seem to have a clear background, identity, and is certainly not limited in points of view. This poem appears to be able to take on several different meaning, like a poetic chameleon.
This poem, as a first basis, appears to have very little plot or substance – no underlying secrets, etc. A man goes out for a walk, decides to turn around, then decides to go further and see what lies ahead. The man sees a bird and ponders what the bird might possibly be thinking, until the bird finally settles behind a pile of wood. The wood is described in such a manner to make the reader realize that is has been around for quite a while. The narrator continues on, contemplating who might have left the wood there “And leave it there far from a useful fireplace…” (line 38).
The poem is as ambiguous as my simplified summary. At first we come in contact with the narrator who goes out for a walk – is he escaping something, fleeing, or is he looking for something? He, during this walk, decides to turn back, and the reader questions if the narrator is returning to something, going “back” to something. He decides to continue on and “see,” but the reader questions what the narrator means by that statement. Is the narrator looking to see something, as in see what happens, or see where the path leads him, or maybe see if this walk changes his life in some way?
The narrator walks through a “frozen swamp,” and notices many trees that appear to be very similar, but the only different, unique items are the bird and the woodpile. It’s as though the bird and the woodpile, through their uniqueness signify life; they are independent. The narrator continues on, in thought, about the bird. He attempts to figure out what the bird is thinking, believing that the bird thinks the narrator is after the feather; however, the pronouns become confusing in their meanings. Frost states, “Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.” (line 12). The main question is who is “he” – the bird for finding harm in the narrator, or the narrator for trying to figure out the bird’s thoughts.
It, at first glance, appears to be that the narrator is mocking the bird for being paranoid as “…one who takes/Everything said as personal to himself.” (lines 15-16). However, the narrator’s description of the white feather may be a hint that the bird is not paranoid, and in fact has something to fear. This description is a betrayal to the narrator’s claim of indifference to the bird. I suppose there is no way to be certain of the narrator’s meaning, except to determine which speculation is most reliable and sensible.