'Fear , The' by Robert Lee Frost
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A lantern light from deeper in the barn
Shone on a man and woman in the door
And threw their lurching shadows on a house
Near by, all dark in every glossy window.
A horse's hoof pawed once the hollow floor,
And the back of the gig they stood beside
Moved in a little. The man grasped a wheel,
The woman spoke out sharply, "Whoa, stand still!"
"I saw it just as plain as a white plate,"
She said, "as the light on the dashboard ran
Along the bushes at the roadside--a man's face.
You must have seen it too."
"I didn't see it.
Are you sure----"
"Yes, I'm sure!"
"--it was a face?"
"Joel, I'll have to look. I can't go in,
I can't, and leave a thing like that unsettled.
Doors locked and curtains drawn will make no difference.
I always have felt strange when we came home
To the dark house after so long an absence,
And the key rattled loudly into place
Seemed to warn someone to be getting out
At one door as we entered at another.
What if I'm right, and someone all the time--
Don't hold my arm!"
"I say it's someone passing."
"You speak as if this were a travelled road.
You forget where we are. What is beyond
That he'd be going to or coming from
At such an hour of night, and on foot too.
What was he standing still for in the bushes?"
"It's not so very late--it's only dark.
There's more in it than you're inclined to say.
Did he look like----?"
"He looked like anyone.
I'll never rest to-night unless I know.
Give me the lantern."
"You don't want the lantern."
She pushed past him and got it for herself.
"You're not to come," she said. "This is my business.
If the time's come to face it, I'm the one
To put it the right way. He'd never dare--
Listen! He kicked a stone. Hear that, hear that!
He's coming towards us. Joel, go in--please.
Hark!--I don't hear him now. But please go in."
"In the first place you can't make me believe it's----"
"It is--or someone else he's sent to watch.
And now's the time to have it out with him
While we know definitely where he is.
Let him get off and he'll be everywhere
Around us, looking out of trees and bushes
Till I sha'n't dare to set a foot outdoors.
And I can't stand it. Joel, let me go!"
"But it's nonsense to think he'd care enough."
"You mean you couldn't understand his caring.
Oh, but you see he hadn't had enough--
Joel, I won't--I won't--I promise you.
We mustn't say hard things. You mustn't either."
"I'll be the one, if anybody goes!
But you give him the advantage with this light.
What couldn't he do to us standing here!
And if to see was what he wanted, why
He has seen all there was to see and gone."
He appeared to forget to keep his hold,
But advanced with her as she crossed the grass.
"What do you want?" she cried to all the dark.
She stretched up tall to overlook the light
That hung in both hands hot against her skirt.
"There's no one; so you're wrong," he said.
What do you want?" she cried, and then herself
Was startled when an answer really came.
"Nothing." It came from well along the road.
She reached a hand to Joel for support:
The smell of scorching woollen made her faint.
"What are you doing round this house at night?"
"Nothing." A pause: there seemed no more to say.
And then the voice again: "You seem afraid.
I saw by the way you whipped up the horse.
I'll just come forward in the lantern light
And let you see."
"Yes, do.--Joel, go back!"
She stood her ground against the noisy steps
That came on, but her body rocked a little.
"You see," the voice said.
"Oh." She looked and looked.
"You don't see--I've a child here by the hand."
"What's a child doing at this time of night----?"
"Out walking. Every child should have the memory
Of at least one long-after-bedtime walk.
"Then I should think you'd try to find
Somewhere to walk----"
"The highway as it happens--
We're stopping for the fortnight down at Dean's."
"But if that's all--Joel--you realize--
You won't think anything. You understand?
You understand that we have to be careful.
This is a very, very lonely place.
Joel!" She spoke as if she couldn't turn.
The swinging lantern lengthened to the ground,
It touched, it struck it, clattered and went out.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Fear in Robert Frost's Poetry
Robert Frost is not only an iconic poet but also a master of capturing the essence of human nature in his works. He has a unique style that reflects the idiosyncrasies of rural America, but at the same time, he explores universal themes that are relevant to all cultures and societies. Among his most prominent themes is fear, which Frost portrays in various ways in his poetry. In this literary criticism, I will explore the fear in Robert Frost's poetry, its sources, and the ways in which he manages to convey it to the reader.
The Sources of Fear in Frost's Poetry
Fear is a complex emotion that can arise from different sources, and Frost draws on various experiences to depict it in his poetry. One of the most significant sources of fear in Frost's poetry is nature. Frost's poems often feature dark, desolate landscapes that evoke a sense of danger and uncertainty. For example, in his poem "Once By The Pacific," he describes a scene of the ocean's waves crashing against the shore, suggesting the power and unpredictability of nature. He writes:
"The shattered water made a misty din. Great waves looked over others coming in, And thought of doing something to the shore That water never did to land before."
Here, Frost portrays the ocean as an unpredictable force that can cause destruction and chaos, thus creating a sense of fear in the reader.
Another source of fear in Frost's poetry is death. Many of his poems deal with the inevitability of death and the fear that it brings. In his poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay," Frost writes:
"Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay."
In this poem, Frost suggests that everything in life is fleeting and that we must accept the inevitability of change and loss. The fear of death is also present in his poem "Out, Out-" where he describes the death of a young boy who loses his hand while using a buzz saw. Frost writes:
"And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled, As it ran light, or had to bear a load. And nothing happened: day was all but done. Call it a day, I wish they might have said To please the boy by giving him the half hour That a boy counts so much when saved from work."
Here, Frost portrays death as sudden and unexpected, creating a sense of fear in the reader.
Lastly, Frost's poetry also portrays the fear of isolation and loneliness. Many of his poems deal with characters who are alone and disconnected from the world around them. In his poem "The Road Not Taken," Frost writes:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
Here, Frost suggests that taking the road less traveled can lead to isolation and loneliness, while following the crowd can provide a sense of community and belonging. This fear of being alone is also present in his poem "Acquainted with the Night," where he writes:
"I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light."
Here, Frost portrays the speaker as being alone in the darkness, creating a sense of fear and unease in the reader.
The Ways Frost Conveys Fear in His Poetry
Frost's poetry is renowned for its ability to evoke powerful emotions in the reader, and his depictions of fear are no exception. He uses various literary techniques to convey fear, including imagery, symbolism, and metaphor. One of the most prominent techniques he employs is repetition. By repeating certain words or phrases, Frost creates a sense of tension and unease in the reader. For example, in his poem "The Fear," he writes:
"A lantern light from deeper in the barn Shone on a man and woman in the door And threw their lurching shadows on a house Near by, all dark in every glossy window."
Here, Frost repeats the word "dark" to create a sense of foreboding and fear.
Frost also uses symbolism to convey fear in his poetry. For example, in his poem "Design," he uses the image of a spider to represent the fear of death. He writes:
"What but design of darkness to appall?— If design govern in a thing so small."
Here, Frost suggests that even the smallest things in nature can cause fear and uncertainty.
Lastly, Frost uses metaphor to convey fear in his poetry. In his poem "Fire and Ice," he uses the metaphor of fire and ice to represent the fear of destruction. He writes:
"Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire."
Here, Frost suggests that the fear of destruction can manifest in different ways, thus creating a sense of uncertainty and unease in the reader.
In conclusion, fear is a prominent theme in Robert Frost's poetry, and he portrays it in various ways. His depictions of nature, death, and isolation create a sense of unease and uncertainty in the reader, while his use of literary techniques like repetition, symbolism, and metaphor further convey the emotion. Frost's poetry reminds us that fear is a universal emotion that can manifest in different ways, and that it is a part of the human experience that we must confront and overcome.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Robert Lee Frost’s poem “The Fear” is a classic piece of literature that has been studied and analyzed by scholars and enthusiasts alike. The poem is a reflection on the human experience of fear and how it can affect our lives. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language used in the poem to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.
The poem is structured in four stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which creates a sense of rhythm and flow. The structure of the poem is simple, yet effective in conveying the message of the poem. The simplicity of the structure allows the reader to focus on the language and the meaning of the poem.
The first stanza sets the tone for the poem. The speaker describes a feeling of fear that is “like a little mouse” that “comes out of the field” and “looks at me with his eyes.” The use of the mouse as a metaphor for fear is effective because it conveys the idea that fear is small and insignificant, yet it can have a powerful impact on our lives. The use of the mouse also creates a sense of vulnerability and helplessness, which is a common feeling associated with fear.
The second stanza continues the theme of vulnerability and helplessness. The speaker describes how fear “sits looking over my shoulder” and “puts his mouth to my ear.” This creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and fear, as if fear is a close companion that is always present. The use of the word “mouth” also creates a sense of danger and threat, as if fear is whispering something sinister into the speaker’s ear.
The third stanza shifts the focus to the impact that fear has on the speaker’s life. The speaker describes how fear “slips into my thoughts” and “makes me think of things I don’t want to.” This creates a sense of intrusion and invasion, as if fear is taking over the speaker’s mind and thoughts. The use of the word “slips” also creates a sense of stealth and sneakiness, as if fear is a sly and cunning creature that is always lurking in the shadows.
The final stanza brings the poem to a close by describing the speaker’s attempt to overcome fear. The speaker says that he “tries to put him out of mind” and “says to him, ‘go away.’” This creates a sense of determination and resolve, as if the speaker is determined to overcome fear and take control of his life. The use of the word “tries” also creates a sense of struggle and difficulty, as if overcoming fear is not an easy task.
The language used in the poem is simple and straightforward, yet it is also rich in imagery and metaphor. The use of metaphor is particularly effective in conveying the theme of the poem. The mouse, the shoulder, and the mouth are all effective metaphors that create a sense of intimacy, vulnerability, and danger.
The poem also uses repetition to create a sense of rhythm and emphasis. The repetition of the word “fear” throughout the poem creates a sense of urgency and importance. The repetition of the phrase “go away” in the final stanza creates a sense of determination and resolve.
The theme of the poem is the human experience of fear and how it can affect our lives. The poem explores the idea that fear is a small and insignificant creature that can have a powerful impact on our lives. The poem also explores the idea that fear is a close companion that is always present, and that it can invade our thoughts and take over our minds. Finally, the poem explores the idea that overcoming fear is a difficult task that requires determination and resolve.
In conclusion, Robert Lee Frost’s poem “The Fear” is a classic piece of literature that explores the human experience of fear. The poem is structured in a simple yet effective way, and the language used is rich in imagery and metaphor. The poem conveys the idea that fear is a small and insignificant creature that can have a powerful impact on our lives, and that overcoming fear requires determination and resolve. The poem is a timeless reflection on the human experience of fear, and it continues to resonate with readers today.
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