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AS and A Level: Robert Frost

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Writing about context in Robert Frost's poetry

  1. 1 Frost’s poetry spans the first half of the 20th century and is considered by some to combine 19th century American tradition with 20th century modernism.
  2. 2 Frost believed that writing in free verse was like ‘playing tennis without a net.'
  3. 3 His poems are not experimental in form or technique, but infuse traditional structures with modern idiom and the rhythms of speech.
  4. 4 Many of Frost’s poems are dramatic monologues, conveying a strong sense of ‘voice’.
  5. 5 Frost referred to poetry as a ‘refrigeration technique’ which ‘stops language from going bad’.

Themes in Frost's work

  1. 1 Frost often addresses the theme of loneliness and isolation. His narrators are invariably alone, trapped in nostalgic reflection, debating their ‘promises’ or duties to others and assessing the significance of structures which exist to impose boundaries and borders between individuals.
  2. 2 Frost makes strong use of the environment to reflect on the inner state of his narrators or express the relationship between characters.
  3. 3 Consider the use of paths, woods, walls to reflect symbolically on destiny.
  4. 4 Similarly, Frost makes strong references to the sea, darkness, snow as more abstract symbols of death and unknowingness.
  5. 5 Dramatic monologues often serve to reinforce the distance and isolation between the ‘voice’ and those about him.

Poetic techniques used by Frost

  1. 1 Frost adheres to regular rhythms but makes more erratic use of rhyme. When identifying these, be sure to comment on how these inform and shape the meanings of the poem.
  2. 2 Interestingly, it is also useful to look at exceptions, which break up the regularity of the rhythm and draw attention to particular moments in the poem.
  3. 3 Frost is generally praised for emulating the natural sounds of speech and thought in his poetry: look for evidence of varying sentence lengths, repetition, inversion, colloquialism, parenthesis, hyphenation and pausing (caesura).
  4. 4 Avoid confusing the narrator of the poems with Frost himself, however closely the content resembles his life. Refer to the voice as the ‘narrator’ or ‘persona’.
  5. 5 Frost’s language is often simple, earthy and prosaic, reflecting a vernacular in keeping with his New England identity. Consider the ways in which this informs our interpretation of his poetry.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 3
  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
  1. Marked by a teacher

    The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost relates on both a literal and metaphoric level to the concept of a journey.

    3 star(s)

    These techniques include simple yet powerful imagery, word choice and rhyme and rhythm. Also vital in the effectiveness of this poem is the use of symbolism and the extended metaphor present. Literally this man is a traveller standing at the divergence of two roads. Metaphorically this man is in the 'autumn' of his life, suggested by the "yellow wood" and has come to the crossroads where decisions have to be made to determine the rest of his life. The subject chose "the road not taken" by others and although he ponders what lies down the unknown at the end of his life he is reminiscent and satisfied "I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference."

    • Word count: 1138
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Write a critical appreciation of Mending Wall exploring how far you think that Frost uses his observations of a simple rural event to make a significant conclusion.

    3 star(s)

    a game to him; in line 21, he states that it is "just another kind of outdoor game" and incorporates the childish idea of magic into his 'game' - claiming that he needs to use "a spell to make [the stones] balanced". In this simple and gentle view of rebuilding the wall, comes an element of sadness, when Frost must challenge the reasoning behind the wall. Whilst looking at the poem from this point of view, we can suggest that Frost builds the wall for the wall's own sake - he sees it as yearly task which must be carried out, in somewhat a ceremonial fashion.

    • Word count: 935
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss Frosts use of language and setting in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and compare with Desert Places.

    3 star(s)

    There are several other examples of his thoughts towards the Woods, and how he perceives the place to be peaceful, with a sense of great beauty and awe. He clearly states this in stanza 4; "The woods are lovely, dark and deep". By fitting 'lovely' and 'dark' together, we can begin to see that his view towards being isolated in the Woods is one which he relishes in - the idea of the woods being 'deep' suggests that he is free to roam about within a large enclosed area and still be isolated to himself.

    • Word count: 1657

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare the poems "Hard Frost" and "winter the Huntsman". Decide which poem paints the best picture.

    "In the end both poems are different in imagery but the best image in my opinion is the one in hard frost because it's the Christmas that everyone tends to see. However winter the huntsman is more realistic but it is a image of winter that people don't want to see, because of the holiday of Christmas."

  • Closely analyse the poems 'Sacifice' by Taufiq Rafat and 'Out, Out' by Robert Frost. Explain what the poems tell us about the cultures from which they originate.

    "I liked the fact that Frost uses particular techniques such as, personification, repetition, onomatopoeia, and word structure, which produced a precise rhythm to the poem. Another bit of this poem I liked is that throughout the poem the buzz saw is personified and is given human and animal like qualities. 'And the saw snared and rattled, snarled and rattled as it ran light or had to bear a load'. This I found suggests that the saw is in fact some kind of creature, which may posses more power than the boy. To some up I think that Frost's ideas of life and death, the harshness of life's demands, and how he shows personal interest in the way in which individuals deal with life's issues such as death are clearly reflected in the poem 'Out, Out'. I think that this was a great poem to read."

  • How does Ratsushinskaya depict her suffering? Discuss with reference to two poems.

    "Overall, Irina Ratushinskaya depicts her suffering in the hard labour camp very sincerely. She uses both physical conditions and emotional heartache to display to the reader the true extent of her suffering. Ratushinskaya uses different subjects such as family and friendships to show her determination and the strong perseverance, which she holds. Although the two poems are different they both use descriptive verbs and show how Ratushinskaya tried to convince herself that the prison did not affect her. However in certain places in her poetry it can be seen that she is missing her family and that she is being haunted by old memories she doesn't want to get caught up in. She uses poetic devices such as caesura, enjambment and a semantic field of war to demonstrate her emotions, without actually telling the reader how she is feeling. Irina Ratushinskaya can be quite informative about her ordeal, giving the reader detailed events, in which she went through. In conclusion Ratushinskaya's suffering is depicted in both poems in an effective way, allowing the reader to relate to what she is going through. 5 1"

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