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Critical Analysis of After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

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IOC: Robert Frost After Apple Picking This extract comes from North of Boston, a selection of poems from the eminent American poet Robert Frost. Like most of the other poems in the book, Frost's After Apple Picking reads like a short drama. Like The Mending Wall or the Woodpile , this poem is narrated from a first-person point of view, where the poet refers to himself as "I" and is a principal actor in the poem- continuing to describe his setting, emotions and thoughts throughout. Frost, who is renowned for his figurative use of language, is sometimes counted amongst the ranks of the transcendentalist poets. Transcendentalism often amounted to drawing upon an individual sense of consciousness whilst eschewing the intellectualism of the day. A greater spiritual appreciation was appraised for the setting that influenced the transcendentalist and, thus, North of Boston is imbued with a dreamy quality whilst still retaining a vivid appreciation of nature. It is also interesting to note that some literary critics have called the transcendentalism an "American Romanticism" movement- and indeed, many of Frost's poems have a strong inclination toward nature combined with aesthetic appreciation for emotion and feeling. After Apple Picking is, in itself, a marvelous representation of Frost's philosophy and writing style- though it is somewhat unfortunate that no definite intepretations of the poem can be agreed upon. I shall try to give my own: The name of the poem itself is intriguing and somewhat ominous. ...read more.


The permeating sense of his work haunts him and recalls the theme of regret, when he cannot forget his failure to pick them all. Readers may see in this image man's failure to grasp all available opportunity and the ensuing regret when one looks back on life. As if the writer is "drowsing off" and his hurrying to complete his narration, the few line seems hurried. The repeated use of the word "I" seem panicked, as if the poet is trying to justify his falling asleep or his failure. Against the haunting smell of his failure, "scent of apples", the poet juxtaposes his "strangeness" of his sight against the down-to-earth drinking trough. The metaphysical strangeness of the former and the common image of the latter are only brokered through the transcendental window pane. The window pane is an interesting image: it can both enable and distort sight. That it has distorted sight in this instance, transforming common sustenance (drinking trough) into strangeness, implies that it is being used as a synonym for the poet's fatigue. This is emphasised through the poet's inability to "rub" the strangeness from his sight. It is as if his eyes are the "window pane[s]" in question and lends a spiritual aspect to the physical eyes- even as the common trough is distorted by strangeness. Once again, this falls in with the transcendentalist notion of spirituality in everyday life. Against the backdrop of the apple picker's "Jacob's ladder" is the world of "hoary grass"- the contrasting imagery of calms skies against the rough backdrop gives another concept for the Apple to represent. ...read more.


That the poet remains unsure and undecided by the end of the poem shows suspension between not-life and not-death; where language is narcotized toward incoherence and lack of control. This final analysis makes sense in the methods explored earlier: the 2 possible analyses applied to the poem and the lack of resolution by the poems end. In the end, the poet shows that his exertions have left him so fatigue that he could "sleep like the dead". Indeed the final line expresses a diminished sense of "human sleep," a diminished sense of the labor, knowledge, and aspiration. It is the lack of definite analyses or poet's intention that is the poet's purpose here- to create and undecided poem, mimicking his own fatigue and the "drowsing off" of the speaker as he rambles on. The last point to be analysed can be found in Frost's style. He resorts to biblical allusion at several points, which his intended audience- 20th century Americans- would be able to grasp with ease. This is combined with abstract metaphor for sleep as death, sky for heaven, ladder for ascension and hoary grass for earth. Frost completes this jigsaw with his acute sensory perception, explicit use of imagery and multiple emotions (fatigue, desire, frustration, resignation). This gives it the unique transcendentalist touch- indeed; Frost seems to avoid labeling his poem with a definite message. Whilst the biblical allusion ascribes to his audience's spiritual consciousness his use of imagery induces emotions which mirror his own. "After Apple Picking" by Robert Frost is an ambiguous poem that should be celebrated for its lack of a definite meaning and acclaimed for its unique transcendentalist nature. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This work designed for an Individual Oral Commentary on Robert Frost’s After Apple Picking is excellent in approach, deep in its content and focused in style, taking account of the poem’s context and its thematic ideas that Frost is intending ...

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Response to the question

This work designed for an Individual Oral Commentary on Robert Frost’s After Apple Picking is excellent in approach, deep in its content and focused in style, taking account of the poem’s context and its thematic ideas that Frost is intending to convey. The writer begins with factual information about the poem and Frost, including the poem collection and Frost’s other poems. The writer introduces the idea of transcendentalism as well as Frost’s frequent use of nature as an important ingredient in his poem. The writer picks up details on Frost’s style such as the diction, the openness of the poem’s interpretation, the underlying ambiguity in each word used, the somber mood created as in his other poems as well as the numerous allusions to religion and nature. The writer’s appreciation of literary devices is both deep and broad, noting not just the common devices such as imagery and metaphors but also the religious allusions such as the “two-pointed ladder”. Some subtle features of the poem that the writer pays attention to is the rhythm, meter and diction, and then linking it to the poet’s thematic intentions. The writer also manages to highlight Frost’s use of the various types of imagery, even the less known ones. A notable feature of this work is that the writer also connects each of the poem’s details to either Frost’s life (the context) or Frost’s thematic intentions of death, sleep, weariness and resignation. Interestingly, the writer manages to maintain this pattern throughout the work.

Level of analysis

The writer’s level of analysis is brilliant in covering the literary features of the poem. The writer manages to unravel most of the details in the poem, connects it to Frost’s life and analyses the interpretation to highlight the messages Frost wants to convey. The writer manages to maintain the purpose of the IOC in terms of analysis throughout the work. It is appropriate that writer also makes reference to other works of Frost, especially The Woodpile and Mending Wall, which are very similar in style and thematic content. Nevertheless, the work can be improved by toning down on presenting Frost as a “renowned” poet, which is rather pointless in the IOC. Furthermore, it would be best to state the writer’s approach to the poem in the introduction and follow this as a backbone to crafting the work. This would perhaps fine-tune the organization of the work, which it currently lacks.

Quality of writing

The quality of English is moderately high in the writer’s use of correct vocabulary, the formal register and style of the work that are altogether very appropriate to the IOC. However, the use of decorative words to describe Frost and his poems is pointless. At some points, some flaws in word choice is evident such as calling Frost a “nature poet”, which is very colloquial and contradicts the formal register required of the IOC. Nevertheless, the grammar and vocabulary employed is overall of a high standard.

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Reviewed by Arcturus 17/03/2012

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