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There are numerous ways to achieve an understanding of a poem. One of these methods
is to close read in order to obtain a well-supported interpretation. By possessing the ability to
analyze and close read a poem, we will be able to decipher some of its latent meanings;
therefore, obtain a better understanding along with an appreciation for the poem.
Upon investigation of the text, we will be able to locate and assign meaning to themes, discuss the use of figures of speech, and expose symbolism in three separate poems by Robert Frost.
also seek to understand how the use of close reading and paying close attention to the text will
produce a better supported claim or idea.
In the poem “Acquainted with the night”, Robert Frost writes about a character who has
become familiarized with the night and describes his experiences while walking in the rain.
Frost writes this poem in a metric form which rhymes and ends with a rhymed couplet in the
closing stanza. The purpose of this style of poetry is to highlight the significance of that last line.
Also, we can speculate that the reason the poem is written with a closing couplet is because the
couplet serves as closure. The poem itself contains an extremely depressing tone that dominates
the poem and gives the reader the immediate impression that the meaning is grim. Upon reading
and examining the poem, we can see that there is a general sad atmosphere. Nevertheless, there
is a lot more to be uncovered.
In the poem, we see the speaker pass by a watchman on the street
and then the speaker “dropped [his] eyes, unwilling to explain” (Meyer 665). This desire to avoid
any human contact is made made clear by the phrase “unwilling to explain”.
This can also tell us that the speaker is avoiding any type of human contact on his walk and is exhibiting antisocial like behavior. We can notice that this example of apathy is the speaker’s way of telling us that he prefers to be alone and unbothered by other human beings. We can understand that he is appreciative of the night, but is not content with the rest of the world because he is evasive of everyone else. From this textual support we can deduce that a theme for this poem is
If we focus our attention on searching for figures of speech, we can understand the literal
meaning; this will lead us to the connotative meaning. In this poem, the use of the past perfect
conjugation hints that his walking in the night happened numerous times. If we continue with the
idea that this occurrence happened often, we can label this constant walking as a metaphor for
continuation or possibly insistency. If we look at the choice of words, we notice that the majority
of the descriptive words used are rather melancholic and despite all these terrible things, he still
continues to walk.
At no point in the poem does the speaker turn around or go home; rather, he continues on his walk of solitude. This tells us that the speaker endures all this depression almost voluntarily. We know this because he does not stop on his walk. This persistency may represent the ability to persist through a certain type of depression or mental illness. Moreover, the persistency that the speaker exhibits may be symbolic to the ability to continue living with a certain sense of detachment.
While close reading in order to find traces of symbolism, we can make an interpretation
that the darkness is symbolic of the speaker’s depression. We can see that the speaker “has
outwalked the furthest city light”(Meyer 665) which can tell us that the speaker is surrounded by
darkness, much like how depression and loneliness surrounds an individual. We note how the
speaker feels comfortable at night and being surrounded by the darkness.
The speaker feels as if the darkness is a protective shield against the outside world. We can say this because he continues to walk despite the rain. The night and darkness allows him to be out and he feels almost safe in the night. This accepting of the darkness is symbolic to the speaker’s depression.
Many of the same concepts we mentioned can be applied to “The Road Not Taken”. In
this poem we see the speaker is forced to decide between two equally travelled paths. As he
chooses one path, he exclaims that he will retell his story in a manner that explains that he had
chosen the path less traveled. Within the first stanza of the poem we see that the speaker is “sorry
[he] could not travel both [paths]” (Meyer 840). This tells us that he made a conscious decision
to follow one path over the other.
The decision of taking one path over another can represent the choices and decisions we make in life. While we read this poem, we can deduce that this obligation to chose one path over the other can represent the theme of decisions. A majority of the poem is centered around the ability to make choices, or in this case, chose a path. This theme of choices is represented by the fork in this road in this poem.
We can also notice the use of vivid and detailed descriptions of the two roads. This use of
imagery helps us better understand the poem by providing scenic information to interpret. For
example, the speaker states that the grass “had worn them down about the same” (Frost 840).
This tells us that there is no obvious better path. The fact that these two paths are very similar
ties back into our theme of the difficulty of making immediate choices. We have mentioned
earlier that the fork in the road marks the two paths that the speaker can take. If we look at the
end of the first stanza the speaker says that he can only see down the paths for a certain distance.
This inability to see the path in front of him may be symbolic of the inability to see the
consequences of choice. This inability to see forward makes him almost fearful of his choice to
take a certain path. In the poem, the speaker states that we will always wonder what would have
happened if we took a different path. We notice that the poem mentions the two paths and how
the speaker regrets his own choice.
This uncertainty may represent a desire to know what would have happened if he had taken the other path. We can say that the roads themselves are symbolic of the actual choices we make because we can regret the path we have taken in a similar manner that we regret life choices.
In the very short poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost, it becomes more challenging to
interpret the meaning because the poem only contains nine lines. In this poem we see the speaker
speculating on how the world will end. He/she discuses that there are two possibilities:
destruction by ice or destruction by fire.
It is important to understand that poem is about the destructive force of emotions; however, we can note that the speaker talks about these emotions with little bias or personal predisposition. This unbiased explanation of these two destructive forces makes it clear that these two forces are equally dangerous. For example, in the line where he hypothetically states that “if [he] had to perish twice, I think I know enough hate to say that for the destruction of ice is also great” (Meyer 852).
This shows us that the speaker also acknowledges the power of hate is equal to the power of desire. This ability to discuss these two heories to the end of world with no prejudice from the speaker makes us clearly see the points made in poem. The poem by itself is a metaphor for the devastating power that emotions can yield. We can state that the destructive force of human emotions is the theme because the “hate” and “desire” in the poem represent powerful and often dangerous sentiments.
While analyzing for figures of speech, we notice a small amount of alliteration within the
poem. In the fourth line of the poem reads: “I hold with those who favor fire” (Meyer 852). We
notice a repetitive “h” sound in the words “hold” and “who” along with a “f” sound in the words
“favor” and “fire”. The usage of these particular phonemes, /h/ and /f/, makes us focus our
attention to that certain line in the poem. That fifth line in the poem is significant because that
line shows us that the speaker has had some personal experience with hate; therefore, we can
infer that there is some sort of credibility to what he is saying.
The title itself may give us a certain clue of what the symbolism is in this poem. In the
poem, the speaker talks about how he believes that fire or ice will mostly be the cause of the end
of the world. Moreover, the speaker then compares fire to desire and then ice to hate, which leads
us to believe that fire and ice are symbolic to human emotions and behaviors. Human emotions
and desires play a significant role in human manufactured destructive forces. Every war, every
conflict, or any verbal argument has been fueled by human emotions. Both fire and ice are
highly destructive and both powerful. We can link human behaviors and emotions to fire and ice;
hate and desire.
When we read poetry, it is imperative that we think in an analytical manner. By
close reading three poems by Robert Frost, we were able to achieve a deeper understanding by
investigating themes, figures of speech, and symbolism. While we dwell within the text, we
realize that understanding these aspects of poetry will lead us to achieve a better understanding
of the poem. Upon gaining a deeper comprehension of these poems, we obtain a stronger
connection to the text and we also develop an appreciation for the poem’s cleverness. Close
reading has given us the ability to better understand poetry along with the ability to value it.
One of the things that I had noticed about myself while editing this paper was that I had a
bit of trouble trying to articulate what I meant to write on paper. For example, in the second
paragraph I had mentioned that the style of the poem was organized in various stanzas and ended
with a rhyming couplet. When I was drafting my essay, it seemed obvious to me why that was
After writing numerous papers, I had developed my writings skill enough to know that
everything I write must be relevant to my point and explained to avoid any form of ambiguity.
Therefore, I corrected numerous things in my second paragraph to help bring clarity to my paper.
When I first began to write the first draft of this essay, I found it difficult to write what I
wanted to write regarding the tone of the poem.
Originally, I had stated the poem had very little emotion, which was not my intent. I eventually was able to explain that the speaker portrayed both emotions with little personal biased to each emotion. I was able to explain that this unbiased portrayal of both emotions highlighted the severity of each emotion. I noticed that a common theme in my papers was the inability to elaborate on my thoughts. I had edited the places where the elaborations needed to be made and I feel like the paper flows in a more efficient manner.
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