Robert Frost: A Man of Many Faces

Many individuals have a direct vision on life. Robert Frost, an American poet, was born in San Francisco, California, on March 26, 1874. During his youth he attended respectively, the Universities of Dartmouth and Harvard, but never obtained a degree. In 1912, Frost moved his family to England because of lack of luck in publishing his poetry. It was in England that Frost gained the reputation of being a strong literary poet; but Frost longed to be accepted at home so, in 1915, returned to America, where he was now well renowned. A distinguishing literary characteristic that Frost possesses is, the gift of taking an ordinary experience and transforming it into a meditative moment, for the reader to philosophically muse over. Frost also writes with surface cheerfulness and descriptiveness in his poems, he often presents a dark and sober vision of life. “The Death of the Hired Man”, “Blueberries” and “After Apple-Picking” strongly illustrates Frost’s melancholic outlook on life.

“The Death of the Hired Man”, conveys a message of a man’s pitied life, as told by Frost. For instance, a man named Warren comes home to his wife to find that, “Silas is back”. Silas was a past employee that left him at a time of need. Warren feels no compassion towards Silas’ downfall. Lawrence Thompson cited that Warren’s bitter attitude towards Silas was because he left and now “he has come home to die”. Warren mocks his wife’s kind words of Silas and does not forgive and forget the past. Kyle Johnson added that Warren is still very much hurt because of what Silas had done to him. Warren had said, “no, but he hurt my heart the way he lay.” Obviously, Silas and Warren were very close at one, time but Silas betrayed their friendship and Warren could find no sympathy in his heart for his ‘friend’ and help him in his time of need. “The Death of a Hired man” is the story of a man, Silas, who lived his life recklessly, made some bad decisions and in the end was left alone to die by himself, with not a friend in the world.

“Blueberries” induces a harsh message that many people realize in their lives. For example, a man asks his friend Loren if he can pick some of his beautiful berries growing in his orchard, Loren agrees, and the man picks the berries recalling what he knows about his friend’s life. Frost wrote, “and after all, really they’re ebony skinned; the blue’s but a mist from the breath of the wind”. This meaning, that on the outside everything in Loren’s life looks good, but it is all just an act put on to please everyone around him. Moreover, Lawrence Thompson confirms that Loren has a life so superficially perfect, but beneath this exterior, in his family there is constant turmoil. Thompson selected, “It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit. I taste in them sometimes the flavor of soot”. In consequence, meaning that the blueberries look delicious but once one tastes them, the illusion is gone and one is brought back to a painful and undesirable reality. Kyle Johnson also verifies that Loren became a man who had lost his passion for life and that he brought this feeling of falsity down upon himself. Johnson noticed, “of all the young Loren’s alive, but Loren, the fatherly out for a drive”. Loren had many chances to get close to his children and family yet, he chose to just provide for them and be regarded by his friends as a good father, rather than actually being a good father. “Blueberries” depicts a frequent occurrance among families today that in due course could make or break a family.

The mellow tone of “After Apple-Picking” describes Frost’s central theme superbly. In particular, a man had been picking apples in an orchard and becomes tired and reflects upon what he has done in his life. Frost wrote, “and there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill beside it, and there may be two or three”. Ultimately, the man did not finish his job but he says he is done for the day and leaves the job undone much like certain chapters in his life. Additionally, Lawrence Thompson’s reference to the “essence of winter sleep is on the night, the scent of apples: I am drowsing off…the long sleep I described is coming on”. This makes the reader question what kind of sleep to anticipate, whether it be troubled or peaceful, just as in our lives, our actions dictate the course our lives take and whether we have a ‘good’ life or a ‘bad’ one. In addition, Kyle Johnson reflects on how Frost compares this sleep with that of an animal, “this sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. Where he not gone, the woodchuck could say whether it’s like his”. The woodchuck reawakens after its hibernation to new life and freshness of the spring just as humans can after a goodnight’s rest; feeling secure with their thoughts and their future. “After Apple-Picking” slides gradually away from merely harvesting fruit to considering how life has been experienced fully but with many regrets and mistakes.

“The Death of a Hired Man“, “Blueberries” and “After Apple-Picking”, have the common theme of gloom in mankind’s life. “The Death of a Hired Man” tells of a man who realizes his error in life, but is too late to make any kind of amends, while “Blueberries” communicates a common family situation of problems trying to be covered up, as in “After Apple-Picking”, life’s mishaps and unchangeable mistakes are told. Some people have brutally realistic views on life; Robert Frost is one of these people.

Works Cited

  • Frost, Robert. The Poetry Of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1969.
  • Johnson, Kyle. American Poets. England: Random House, 1921
  • Lawrence, Thompson. Robert Frost. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota