Analysis of the Stylistic Devices Robert Frost Uses in His Poetry

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Robert Frost was an American Poet who was born in San Francisco, California, on March 26, 1874. At eleven-years-old, his father died, Frost and his family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts. In high school, Frost developed a love for poetry. In 1894 his poem, “My Butterfly” was published in The Independent. This marks the first time Frost was ever published. In December 19, 1895, he married his high school sweet-heart Elinor White upon her completion of college. Throughout his life Frost has won multiple awards including: four Pulitzer Prizes and multiple honorary degrees.

In the poem Home Burial, Frost touches upon a dark subject: the death of a child. Home Burial is about a husband and wife who have recently lost a child. At the beginning of the poem the husband sees his wife is atop of the stair case, viewing her deceased child’s grave through the window. She appears upset upon seeing the grave and when her husband tries to approach her, she becomes agitated since the husband cannot figure out why she is distraught. Being fed up with her husband’s naiveté, she attempts to leave the house. Her husband wants to talk about his grief and share it with her, but she doesn’t want to. Since his coping mechanisms are different from hers, she feels as if he does not care about their child’s death and lashes at him in anger. At the end of the poem, the wife leaves the house and the husband tries to bring her back in. Home Burial uses a number of poetic devices. Enjambment can be seen though lines one through two while reading “He saw her from the bottom of the stairs Before she saw him.” (Frost). This is because the idea from the first line is continued throughout the second line with no break. On line four, Frost tells us that “She took a doubtful step”. In this line, Frost uses personification when he describes the step as doubtful. He does this again in line twenty-eight when describing the gave as having “Broad-shoulders”

In lines twenty-seven through twenty-nine, Frost uses alliteration. In this stanza, Frost describes the graveyard having “There are three stones of slate and one of marble, Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight. On the sidehill.” It is alteration because of the sounds the s’s make in these lines. A majority of the poem takes place on the staircase. The wife is at the top of the stairs while the husband is at the bottom, looking at her while she gazes upon her child’s grave. This could be seen as a metaphor for the power dynamics in the marriage. Whoever is at the top of the staircase is the breadwinner. In the beginning, the wife was at the top and the husband at the bottom. As the poem goes on, they switch places, allowing the reader to see who has the power in any moment. When the Husband asks, “Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?’” (Frost line 37), He is using a euphemism. He is grief stricken that his child is dead and is afraid to come to terms with this, hence why he says ‘lost’, not ‘dead’.

While reading Home Burial, I was overcome with a mixture of emotions. I felt grief, pity, and empty upon completion. The couple is seen fighting with each other throughout the entire poem. They both have two totally opposite ways for dealing with the death of their child. The husband is able to live his life like it never happened, telling his wife how “Three foggy mornings and one rainy day Will rot the best birch fence a man can build” (Frost lines 96-97). While reading the poem, I could understand both of their arguments but, I identity with the husbands more. I understand that the loss of a child is a painful thing to experience, but that does not mean you have to be trapped in your grief. You have to move on with your life and the husband does just that. I could relate to the wife’s grieving process and the fact that it took longer than her husbands. I felt that way when my aunt died last year. At times, I found it difficult to overcome it as many of my daily activities reminded me of her. Grieving is an individual process and there is not right or wrong way to go through it. Robert Frost’s Birches is a poem about the trees in a forest. It starts with the narrator gazing upon the beauty of the birch trees. He sees the trees bending and imagines a young boy swinging on them. He then says that swinging on it could not have caused the trees to be bent, so it must have been a nasty snow storm. While the narrator knows the truth, he prefers to indulge in his fantasy of the boy swinging on the branches. He does this because it reminds him of his childhood where he spent his days outside frolicking in the forest. He wants to go back to a simpler time where if things got rough, he would play in the birch trees.

Birches is written in blank verse, which is a “literary device defined as un-rhyming verse written in iambic pentameter” ( Frost uses a number of literary devices to bring life into the poem. In lines 10-11, Frost gives readers a fabulous mental image when describing the sun warmth being so “powerful that it shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust” (Frost lines 10-11). The use of similes is found twice throughout the poem. Frost says the sight of fallen trees are “Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun” (Frost lines 19-20). In line 44, Frost uses a simile again when he states that “life is too much like a pathless wood” (Frost line 44).

In lines 14 through 16, Frosts writes about how the trees “are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, and they seem not to break; though once they are bowed So low for long, they never right themselves” (Frost). This is an example of imagery because one can get a great mental image of how strong the birch tree is since it can withstand so much abuse. Frost puts onomatopoeia into the poem to enlighten the readers senses. In line 40, Frosts describes the young boy, who “flung outward, feet first, with a swish” (Frost line 40). By putting in “swish” readers can picture themselves as the narrator thanks to onomatopoeia. When Frosts writes “when I’m weary of considerations, and life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns” (Frost 44-46) it is an example of consonance because of the similar ‘w’ sounds. When I first read Birches, I was filled with nostalgia. Reading the poem took me back to the days where I visited my family up in New Hampshire. My aunt’s house is surrounded by birch trees in rural Jackson, New Hampshire. When Frost imagines that a young child was the cause of the birch trees’ branches bending down to the ground, I just could not help but think about myself! Birches made me remember the times I spent playing outside in the trees with my brother. We would be climbing them till dusk or till our grandfather came outside with rope and chased us back inside. Upon reading the poem, I could not help noticing something. I feel as if the narrator wishes he could return back to young boy, being able to play in the trees and climb forever. However, while it’s nice to indulge in our imagination once in a while, we cannot escape the reality that is the present.

Robert Frost’s Apple Picking was written in 1914. The poem tells the tale of man who is apple picking. He is up a ladder picking apples for a long time. At the end of the day, the man was unable to pick every apple in the orchard, evident by the “Barrel I didn’t fill” (Frost Line 3). He is tired from his hard day in the field and the “scent of apples” (Line 8) causes him to remember the peculiar dream had in the morning. It was as if he was “Looking through a plane of glass” (Frost line 100) when he lifted the ice from the trough. The apple trees he saw through the ice encaptivated him and remained in his thoughts throughout the day, even in his dreams.

The man’s dreams are nothing but “Magnified apples appear[ing] and disappear[ing], Stem end and blossom end” (Lines 18-19). No matter what, the man only dreams of all thing’s apples! He is starting to get annoyed by this saying that he has “had too much of apple picking” (lines 27-28). The man later decides that he will turn the remaining apples into apple-cider since they are of “no worth” (line 36). He then ends his thoughts by pondering his sleep. Is it a normal human sleep, or is it something akin to hibernation?

After Apple-Picking is chock-full of many literary elements. The first twenty lines are written in iambic pentameter and the rest are written in blank verse. Frost uses hyperbole on line 30 when he writes that “there were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch”. Surely, he must be joking as it is near impossible for single farm to have that many apples ripe for plucking. The poem alludes to the bible in many parts. One example of this is seen in lines one and two. Frost writes how his “long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven”. Here readers can see that Frost is referencing the biblical story of Jacob, where Jacob dreams of climbing a ladder to heaven. Personification is seen on line 40 where Frost writes “The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his long sleep” (Frost line 40-41), it is impossible for a woodchuck to speak to speak a human language.

On line 37, Frost wonders what “One can see what will trouble This sleep of mine”. This is a wonderful example of connotation. There is no hidden meaning when Frost tells his readers about his troubling dreams as he openly states how his dreams are troubling him. Frost gives his readers another mental image when he writes how “the rumbling sound of load on load of apples coming in” (Frost lines 25-26). The readers can imagine themselves in the narrator’s footsteps, hearing the apples coming into the cellar. There is also alliteration with “load on load” because of the similar sounds. It shows up again in lines 33 through 35 with the similar sounding “s’s” when Frost writes “That struck the earth, No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble, Went surely”. Assonance makes an appearance in line 18 when Frost writes about “Magnified apples appear and disappear”. We can see assonance due to the multiple short ‘a’ sounds.

After Apple-picking was an interesting read. I enjoyed how Frost alluded to the bible through the use of the ladder and how the apples symbolize Adam and Eve. It brought back many found memories that I had going with my family picking apples. I remember going to someplace in Cumberland picking apples every fall, spending a whole day at a farm till the sunset. The poem made me think about how I view dreams. Dreams are nothing more than what think about during the day. For the man in the poem, it was apples and for me it’s my family and school. While we have no control over what we dream about we can still predict what we dream about. At the end of the poem, I found it dandy how the man questioned his existence, wondering if he was a sleep or not.


Read more