“Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice” focuses on the poet’s deep feelings, views, and innermost emotions regarding metaphysical issues like love, hate, and concerns about the physical and surreal environment.
One observes that Robert Frost uses his poems to analyze global and philosophical questions that pervade humanity daily’s existence. Again, through this poem, Robert Frost reveals his thoughts about the end of the world, and the temporal world, amongst other metaphysical subjects.
For scores of centuries, questions about the end of the world have remained at the front burner of conversations. In fact, most religious and moral precepts exist on the belief that the world will end one day. This belief has, in turn, opened a floodgate of questions.
In many quarters, a prominent question is whether a human’s quest to do good comes from an innate and genuine desire. Or whether it comes from the fear that there’s an afterlife where they hope to live a good life due to their various good deeds on earth. Amongst others, Frost aims to shift the spotlight from questions of how the world’s end will be to what the world can do to stop it.
“Fire and Ice” is the brainchild of this philosophical quest in 1920 when it was published. In 1923, the poem was published again in Frost’s collection, New Hampshire. However, reports indicate that the poem owes its inspiration to another poem, Inferno, written by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri – which discusses similar questions of hell.
Also, Harlow Shapley, in a recollection, reported that he had discussed the end of the world with Frost. As an astronomer, he told Robert Frost that the world’s end would be when the sun explodes, thus leaving the life on earth to die (Andrew, 2020).
Further, reports around 1920, indicated that Robert Frost was struggling with depression as his parents had passed away, and his sister was in a mental home. These difficult times significantly influenced his views at the time, as he brooded on life’s vanity and end of the world. As reflected in the language and instructive logic, the depth of the message makes it a relevant work of literature for all times.
The first two lines of this poem pose the existence of an opinion that the end of the world will either come by fire or by ice. These lines highlight the arguments, differing perspectives, and worldviews on the question of the end of the world, as held by different persons in society.
“Fire” is a metaphor for such disasters as nuclear disasters, while “ice” represents extreme climate conditions such as extreme freezing. “Fire” also represents the views of hell as the destination of humanity.
“Ice,” on the other hand, represents death before the end of the world. This perspective comes from the perception in some quarters that the world ends for a person once they die. “Ice” therefore represents the coldness of the body after a man dies. In any case, they both go to show that perceptions of how the world will end are apparent opposites.
Further, in the poem, Robert Frost introduces his opinion on the matter by siding with fire to end the earth. According to him, from his observation and experience with desire and how desires drive humans, he believes the world will end in fire. That is, man’s actions and inactions will destroy the world.
The meaning of fire, as used in this context, is also instructive. There is no doubt that fire serves both good and sinister purposes. It lights a dark path, helps us see positivity in the dark world, and navigate through uncertainties. At the same time, it burns, destroys, ruins.
Therefore, when Frost agrees with fire as the instrument of earth’s destruction, he believes that the same desire which drives development and positivity will be the end of humanity. He also highlights how the heights of moral decadence and disregard for religious or cultural tenets will lead to humankind’s end.
Deeper into the poem, Robert Frost then opines that where the possibility of two deaths is available, then destruction by ice remains inevitable, thanks to hate. Here the poet imagines the possibility of the world ending twice, that is, by destruction and death, which represents earth.
He believes that hate – and other opposites of love – will hasten the death of man, thereby underlining the ongoing hate, greed, vengefulness, malice, and evil actions existing on earth.
The poet believes that if the end would not come by destruction, the death of a person signals their ends regardless. Frost concludes that Ice – the death of a man – will also suffice as a “great” end of the world.
The literary devices employed by Robert Frost include.
This poem has nine lines. Also, the poem has three rhyming sounds between three rhyming sounds, ABA ABC BCB. It is also in iambic tetrameter, having four iambs per line.
This means giving human qualities to inanimate objects. In this work of literature, Fire and Ice reflect the human qualities of destruction.
This refers to a pattern of repetition for emphasis, style, and lyricism. For example, “Some say” is repeated in two lines 1 & 2 for the emphasis.
This is the invocation of mental pictures in the reader’s mind. Here, the poem invokes mental pictures of Ice and Fire as destructive agents.
Symbolism gives connotative meaning to objects, ideas, and words in a poem. In this literary composition, fire symbolizes the destruction of the world, human passion, and light. Ice symbolizes human death. Hate also symbolizes the evil actions of man as against love.
Throughout the poem, the thought in one-line flows into the next. For example, “To say that destruction for ice is also great.”
Robert Frost's Fire and Ice leaves indelible questions of death, destruction, passion, desire, and hate. Without mincing words, through this poem, Robert Frost highlighted societal perceptions of these questions.
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