Robert Frost: His treatment of nature and humanity
Nolan, Catherine Elizabeth
MetadataShow full item record
Robert Frost has been called the interpreter of New England, but he might also be called the interpreter of nature and humanity as a whole, for his poetry shows that he is a close observer of both nature and people, and that he portrays their fundamental elements. Possibly it is because his poetry is so basic that the critics can't accept it as such and continue to seek some dark and hidden meaning, and as a result sometimes distort the real meaning. Frost writes lyrics, fantasies, and character portrayals and always uses meter. But it is a very flexible meter, conversational in tone. He uses colloquialisms rather than dialects to portray the New Englander. Most criticisms of Frost result in general commentaries on his classic poems like "Mending Wall" and "The Death of the Hired Man." Untermeyer and Lowell emphasize his pastoralism; Sidney Cox has his "original ordinary man" theory; J. S. Wilson thinks that he is the only true American poet; Kremborg calls him definitely Yankee; and Munson calls him a pure classical poet. Thus since there isn't much detailed critical material on Frost it is better for purposes of study to look at Frost's poetry itself. Frost uses Nature to a great extent in his poetry, and of course it is the nature of New England. Through his close observations of nature Frost shows his deep love for it but never comes right out and sings its praises. He always portrays nature in a friendly light, never seeing it in anything cruel. His descriptions tend to be earthy and of the soil and yet he sometimes reaches high aesthetic peaks particularly in the "Death of the Hired Man." In his lyrics and fantasies Frost shows his interest in Nature throughout his poems on the seasons, flowers, fruit, the moon, the stars, the sky, animals, and particularly in rural scenes. In his character portrayals he uses nature to set off his characters. His characters are usually rural anyway, their background being that of rural New England. His descriptions are not just pretty pictures but tanged of the soil. He shows what he has observed of farm life, almost a glorification of the common place, for he would rather be just a plain New Hampshire farmer, not afraid of nature nor a runaway from it either, and it is the setting of the New Hampshire farmer in particular and the New England farmer in general that he portrays with so much realism. Frost is also an interested observer of people, and as a result there is a great thread of humanity running throughout his poetry. He has a keen interest in people and their troubles as seen in his character portrayals, for he is always sympathetic towards people, never caustic, bitter or harsh. He has an excellent power of creating characters that fairly breathe because of their superb characterization. In his lyrics and fantasies Frost also shows his keen human interest, for he is sad to find deserted houses and any lessening of the population. He wants life to go on, and he is perfectly content just to be an interested spectator watching life drift by. We have now seen Frost's use of nature and humanity in general but there is also a suggestion of a friendly rivalry between nature and man in his poetry. Nature is never portrayed as being vicious against man, or working against man at all times, but there is an interplay between man and nature, which more or less amounts to the reaction of people to nature's processes. Some people are afraid of nature, but Frost would hate to be that as he says in "New Hampshire." In Frost's works three main themes regarding this question of nature vs. humanity are seen. The first is that of the mountains encroaching on the territory of man, making their bases larger and larger as they grow older, thus taking more land away from the villages surrounding them. Then there is the theme of man's reactions to the elements of rain, snow, storms, etc. Frost seems to think that such things in nature are not meant as cruelties to mankind, but rather just as a reminder to man that he is not all he thinks he is, that he is not the last word. It is nature saying to man "who do you think you are." And lastly there is the elfishness of nature as seen in the way it does little things that hinder man from doing what he wants to do. A slight breeze maites windfalls out of prize apples, a birch tree swings a girl up to heaven instead of letting her bring it down to earth. These incidents are just nature poking fun at man and pricking his bubble of overconfidence; and it is interesting to see Frost let nature put man in his place. To conclude, Robert Frost's poetry is a blend of realistic portrayals of New England nature and humanity with more emphasis on external nature which in the last analysis is more permanent and can still interfere with man's highly mechanized world.
This item was digitized by the Internet Archive. Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University