Robert Frost: Work, Scholarly Criticism, and Biographical Information

Subject: Literature
Pages: 10
Words: 2801
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: Bachelor


During the early twentieth century, Robert Frost was discouraged from pursuing the life of letters. Thus, Frost turned their attention to raising chickens, selling eggs, and crafting local color-piece journals like Farm-poultry and The Eastern Poultryman (Rashid et al.). This proved to be a tragic time for the family after losing their mother and Frost’s first Child, who died of cholera in 1900 (Rathkopf and Dennett). Frost’s grandfather intervened by providing a farm in Derry in New Hampshire, where the poet relocated. The land began to fill with quince, peach, and pear trees, among other forest plantations with a gravel highway and two small pastures. Spending years on the farm, Frost’s engagement with the environment reignited their dream and desire to express themselves through poetic works. This paper will examine the work of Robert Frost and analyses scholarly criticism alongside the author’s biographical information.

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Main body

Robert was a writer who depicted real New England life through literal language and life familiar to everyday people. He was an American poet born on March 26th, 1874 (Richard). Because of the arduous work, the poet spoke during the inauguration of President John F Kennedy after winning four Pulitzer Prizes. He was a celebrated poet with excellent mastery of the American colloquial speech and the rural life depicted in his writings. Many writers and poets have quoted Frost for his incredible determination, having published his first poem in school. Robert never enjoyed formal jobs and only wanted to follow his dream and call for poetry.

Frost grew up understanding everything as a city boy in San Francisco, California, before his father, William Prescott Frost, died of tuberculosis. He moved to Massachusetts with his siblings and joined Lawrence High School. He attended Dartmouth College after high school and joined Harvard University. Frost engaged in various unfulfilling jobs, forcing him to adapt to rural life. His first poem, My Butterfly: An Elegy, saw massive success before facing a major blow by lacking a publisher for his two verses, The Tuft of Flowers and The Trial by Existence.

He sold his first poem featured in the New York Independence and earned a few dollars to go to the Great Dismal Swamp. He married Elinor Miriam while at Harvard University, pursuing his teaching career. Frost has taught at various schools, such as Plymouth Academy and Plymouth State University (Frost and Nason). He acquired an honorary degree from Harvard, Dartmouth, and Amherst college for writing influence. Many of his poems are reviewed in the Anthology of the Modern American Poetry published by the oxford university press. Robert died in Boston in January 1963 from complications related to prostate surgery and was happily interred in the Old Bennington Cemetery (Dong 170). From a farmer to a poet, a rare combination earned his poetic force’s unofficial poet laureate of the United States. From the comprehensive explanation of his work, one can discover his life and achievements of Robert.

The Road Not Taken was the most remarkable breakthrough in Frost’s writing career. It is ambiguous writing that gives the reader choices to make in life. The opening introduces the reader to tough decisions that the speaker of the poem must make that become the central focus of the work. There is a sense of sorrow in choosing between two paths because he cannot travel while picking one means missing opportunities presented by the other road. It explains the journey of deciding choices that are difficult to determine. The speaker in the poem is faced with two roads but cannot travel both roads and must choose one. With such a dilemma, the narrator takes the less traveled road. The first road bent into the undergrowth forest while the other was just fair though grassy and wanted wear.

It consists of four stanzas with five lines each in length and has a traditional rhyme scheme. Frost uses this poem to represent the metaphor of life and the choices that have vastly different outcomes (Dong). The speaker wants to experience both roads, but that is impossible, and he promises to come back and take the other route. The road symbolizes the human journey, while the two paths represent joint choices (Poetry Foundation). The streets appear untouched and not traveled, showing people’s distinct life choices. The poem is set in the forest during autumn, when leaves change color in the woods. The road forks into two paths that continue losing sight as they wind and bend in the woods. This poem is also set in the speaker’s mind, remembering the forest and the choices he had to make.

The verse is written from a traveler’s point of view walking on a single path and finding a fork in the road, forcing him to stop and contemplate which way to take. The divergence in the courses means that a decision must be made to change a life, but it is unknown which direction is best. The theme of choices and uncertainty is expressed through the speaker’s tough decisions on the road. In addition, Frost presents individualism and nonconformity in this poem when the speaker chooses to travel the path that appears slightly less worn. The speaker values individualism by taking the less traveled, which had added advantage. The central theme of the poem is creating meaning from life choices. The speaker must select between roads with no information on where they lead. Frost engages the choice made at the end by assigning meaning to the road taken that made all the difference. Through this poetic work, the reader learns the significance of the hard choices life gives every day and the road that becomes the turning point.

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Many scholars have found this piece an inspiration to the American people, while others have pictured it as nothing more than an ironic tale of right and wrong. One significant criticism of this poem is that the Phrase “Road not taken” implies that the decisions have already been made (Rashid et al.). The word “taken” is used and not chosen, meaning the choice was made on impulse and not through careful consideration. Robert Fagge, an Acclaimed American literary critic, claims that this poem interprets life choices and the lost possibilities that one encounters from their choices. These choices are often planned, and humans can rethink and make other decisions. Karen Kearns finds the road not taken a mere irony and a mediocre of Frost’s friend Edward Thomas who later, after taking the road less traveled, becomes more productive (Frost and Nason). Readers often overlook this poem because of its simplicity and the layered irony throughout the work.

Another significant work from Frost’s collection is Acquainted with the Night. He authored this poem to testify his struggles through life’s darkest moments. Frost suffered from bouts of depression and the unfortunate series of events that unfolded in his family. His father died while he was a young boy, and only two of his six children lived than him. From these most challenging and trying moments, Frost tells the story of his sorrow, grief, and the loss he suffered. He is isolated on a night that is auspicious to him and becomes familiar with his frustrations.

The fourteen-line poem is told from the speaker’s point of view, who tells his readers about a night that he knows very well. It was raining when the speaker started his journey, and the rain did not stop until the poem’s end. The speaker traveled beyond the light outside the city. Staring at the most secluded city streets, he encountered a guard patrolling the city but looked down to avoid eye contact. This is because he never wanted to talk about the reasons for walking at Night (Kosc). The writer was then stopped by the sound of broken cries that echoed from one house to another on different streets. The sound of these people did not call the speaker to return or say goodbye, only the moon that shined brightly in the sky.

The emotions depicted by the speakers in this poem are strong and hold him isolated, preventing communication with other people. It elaborates how frustration results in isolation while showing sadness and despair are inevitable in human life. The speaker addresses the city lane as the saddest and most cursed history that brings suffering. Frost uses symbolism with alteration in the poem to give the work an outstanding end. Rain symbolizes tears from the people, while Night is a sign of darkness. The themes explored in this work are sorrow, isolation, and despair from the aimless wandering of the speaker. The poem is set in a city at nighttime where the streets are empty with the moon shining brightly. The readers can connect to the speaker’s experience walking through this anonymous city that evokes a sense of sorrow and isolation in his life.

Darkness has been associated with negative emotions and the dangers of fear in the poem. The reader cannot tell why the speaker is in grief and the uniqueness of the suffering. The connection between human experience and isolation is inherent. In the third line, the poem talks about the speaker going into the furthest city light leading to the deep darkness on the journey. Frost uses the metaphor of the moon and light to highlight the hope and joy they bring to human life, though to the speaker, they are at a high height and cannot be reached, showing despair. Through personification, the reader learns the speaker’s desire for human connection that influences the world’s view. The speaker does not find any actual link showing isolation and desperation.

Acquainted with the Night has been criticized by various scholars for its contribution to lyric poetry and dramatic narrative. The word “night” is significant in the poem and is associated with fear and death in the human world. It is not easy to define what Night means to the speaker in the poem’s first stanza. The narrator wanders in the rain at Night and feels isolated in the city light. Frost uses an apparent rhyme in the first stanza as the first lines start with the same pattern. In the fourth stanza, there is figurative language when the speaker looks up at the sky and compares the moon and the clock, which declares the time neither wrong nor right (Rashid et al.). The narrator is acquainted with the Night and feels it even when the clock points in the morning. The last line is a repetition of the first line, where the speaker accepts and enjoys the Night.

The reader becomes lonely in state after exploring this poem. This is because the poem influences people towards loneliness and despair. After suffering sadness and depression, Frost put it into writing, leading to isolation from the world. Wandering and suffering do not represent the human condition, and the connection between the narrator’s struggles shows individuals’ experiences. Malcolm Cowley criticizes Frost’s work for being too walled in the past, leaving the contemporary issues affecting society (Richard). The poet is more conventional and not concerned with the virtues.

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Mending Walls is the third poem to be critically discussed in this paper. The work was inspired by Frost’s wife, Elinor Miriam, who died in 1938 (Rathkopf and Dennett). It explores the nature of human relationships and highlights the two distinct personalities of people. This poem is one of the most analyzed and anthologized works in the history of US poetic writing. It is about a new England farmer who walks with his neighbor to repair a stone wall between the two farms during the spring season. While mending the wall, the narrator asks why they needed the wall. The speaker does not want a barrier between the farms, but his neighbors believe good fences make good neighbors. Unseen and unheard agents often destroy the stone wall during the spring season.

This poem begins with the quest to find who destroys this wall and why it doesn’t love the wall. This opening statement leaves the readers to speculate at the end of the poem that something is wrong. The gaps in the wall are mysteriously made, and no one knows when they must repair them until winter. The speaker terms the repair as a game and humorously makes the reader discover the inactivity of the neighbor. The narrator does not want the wall and wants the border elsewhere. There is a lack of perception, and ironically the speaker has self-contradiction (Bowen). The neighbor is confident that there can not be peace without boundaries that regulate the interaction between human beings. This shows the human satisfaction that comes from setting limits.

The mending process is ironically reflected in lines 12 to 30 of the poem. The speaker has a negative view while the neighbors value and know the boundary’s importance in setting their relationship (Bowen). Though separated during the repair, the mending work brings them together, and they never truly meet. Walls are humans built to keep neighbors apart, which is ironic as it brings them together in the poem. Frost uses civilization and nature to show the reader the division personified by the neighbor.

Written in blank verse, Frost perfectly employed the five stressed syllables in each line of the poem. There is natural speech quality with end rhymes consisting of short but conversational words. The poem has no stanzas. It is written at the height of modernism abroad and the complicated literature of the old days. Themes of borders and limits are presented in the poem by the wall separating the neighbor’s property and the speaker. There is conflict about the wall, and the poem does not set who is suitable to set the boundary. The poem’s value of work is evident as mending the wall is ritualistic and inspected during spring.

The poem Mending Walls has received the most criticism among the Frost anthology of poems, scholars disputing its modernism. The poem fails to resolve the argument for the readers because the speaker, the groundswell, acts as a fence builder, which is a contradiction. The poem is criticized for its lack of rhymes and the open style of poetry used by constructing each sentence with ten syllables. Robert Frost uses modern literature but holds 19th-century cultures and traditions (Rathkopf and Dennett). Though marked with modernism, Frost exhibited no marked exit from the early practices. In addition, most of Frost’s poems are linked with similar thematic concerns. The themes of despair, sadness, and isolation surround most of the work. Though different in allusion and poetic context, the poems relate to the poet’s rural life and their life experience as human beings. The author intends to capture readers’ attention through the ten sentences with eleven syllables in the poem.

The work of Robert Frost is vital in building strong human relations. Mending wall makes the reader analyze and understand life differently by defining people’s challenges. It tells the importance of boundaries in life and why there is a need to keep relationships peaceful and stable by establishing walls. Life privacy and the significance of well-maintained distance are explored by the reader. Through imagery, Frost expressed the world around him and the rural life to modern readers. Through the poem, man is connected to nature and invites readers to discover themselves through the work. The road not taken explains the inspiration from nature and culture to explore the beauty of New England.

Frost’s reading is essential in successfully bringing to light the concept of soothing nature and its significance to human life. The poems inspire modern times, adding more colors to literature. The idea of a social outcast and the love for nature is excellently placed in powerful writing with recurring themes of death, love, beauty, and the natural world. Frost employed literary tools that changed visually to sensual imagery, symbolism, and metaphors creating a unique style of poetry for future poets. Through this excellent academic quality and unique expressions, Frost turned to the classical writer, influencing a diverse range of writers in the literature world.

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In conclusion, Robert is one of the most significant American poets of the 20th century. His works are celebrated for their influence on literature and poetic writing. Frost makes present moments from the poems by representing the old times and creating human relationships. His contribution to American literature through writing is enormous. Through his innovative tools and means, Frost expresses new themes and poetic forms of the 19th century. Frost’s audience is individuals interested in individuality and most poems’ natural life. There is a clear message in his writing, and the reader gets to learn significant life lessons. Through struggles and hardship, Frost conquered to earn his place in the poetry world, making him a great inspiration. His unique characteristic and determination in writing make him the influential poet of the 20th century.

Work Cited

Bowen, James K. “The ‘Persona’ in Frost’s ‘the Mending Walls’: Mended or Amended?CEA Critic, vol. 83, no. 1, 2021, pp. 2–3, Web.

Dong, Feng. “The Poetic Pendulum: Valéry and Modern American Poetry.Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 43, no. 4, 2020, p. 170, Web.

Frost, Robert, and Thomas W. Nason. Selected Poems of Robert Frost. Sterling, 2018.

Kosc, Grzegorz. “Robert Frost’s Traitors and his Poetics of Disloyalty.Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas, vol. 17, no. 1, 2019, pp. 23–47, Web.

Poetry Foundation. “Robert Frost.” Poetry Foundation, 2019, Web.

Rashid, Md., Harun, et al. “Explore the Natural Beauty of Robert Frost’s in his Poetry.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, vol. 10, 2021, p. 15, Web.

Rathkopf, Charles, and Daniel C. Dennett. “Mending Wall.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 42, 2019, Web.

Richard, Dominic. “Robert Frost’s North of Boston: A Poetry of Resistance.FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & the Arts, 2020, Web.