Exploring the Theme of Nature in Robert Frost’s Desert Places

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Robert frost’s work,” Desert Places”, nature is a central theme that the entire poem plays off of. Frost uses the idea of nature, in particular snow and space, to represent the blank white emptiness of humanity, however within his own mind lie even emptier “desert places”. This is ential

The representation of nature is found throughout, “Desert Places”. This representation of nature is mostly shown through the use of the imagery of snow and winter itself. The poem states in the first few stanzas, “Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast. In a field I looked into going past, and the ground almost covered smooth in snow, but a few weeds and stubble showing last.” Already the theme of nature is very evident in the work, and Frost makes it clear that this snow is coming fast, which can be related to the fast approaching despair of the work. Frost later goes on to say in the eleventh and twelfth stanza, “ A blanker whiteness of benighted snow with no expression, nothing to express.” This statement of, “benighted snow with no expression”, expresses an inability to speak or communicate, which is represented by the snow. The uses of nature to represent loneliness is sprinkled throughout the poem, and is done so with repetition of snow, which in turn represents the white emptiness.

The use of nature as a motif is not only limited to snow. The use of animals also pays a huge part in the complexity of the poem. The poem states in the fifth through eighth stanza, “ The woods around it have it- it is theirs. All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; the loneliness includes me unawares.” The work stated that, “All animals are smothered in their lairs…” This statement represents even more so how terrible the winter is. The fact that all the animals have retreated to their, “lairs” shows that the snow is treacherous and uninviting, which directly correlates back to the narrator’s mood.

It seems that throughout the work the narrator’s mood directly relates to the different scenes of nature within the poem. In the thirteenth and fourteenth stanza the poem states, “ They cannot scare me with their empty spaces. Between stars–on stars where no human race is.” This statement reflects the narrator’s opposition towards humanity and his preference to remain in solitude, away from human contact. The statement, “Between stars–on stars where no human race is”, refers to the fact that space is an empty void where no companion can be found, which for the narrator seems welcoming in comparison to his own emptiness. The narrator expresses to the reader that his own loneliness trumps anything that can be represented in nature, or even perhaps, in humanity. He goes on to say in the fifteenth and sixteenth stanzas, “ I have it in me so much nearer home. To scare myself with my own desert places.” With this statement the narrator is trying to convey to the reader exactly how deeply he is hurting. He proclaims that the vast emptiness of space is dwarfed in comparison to what he carries within his own, “..desert places”.

Frost uses many negative connotations within the poem to emphasize the overall sense of despair that the work gives off. The theme of nature itself, in this work, can even be described as a negative connotation; the way every image of nature is a depressing and desolate one. This idea itself presents a contradiction considering that nature is most often used in a positive light, and often to reference rebirth. One image of this desolate nature can be found in the ninth through twelfth stanzas in which the narrator states, “ And lonely as it is, that loneliness will be more lonely ere it will be less. A blanker whiteness of benighted snow. With no expression, nothing to express.” Particularly the expression of, “…Blanker whiteness of benighted snow”, shows a relation between the snow and depression. The fact that the nature is used in such a contradictory way can be related to a passage from, “The Well Wrought Urn”. Within this text Cleanth Brooks speaks about a similar situation in one of Wordsworth’s works; Brooks goes on to say, “…Or, to take one further instance: Wordsworth’s light must serve as the common symbol for the aspects of man’s vision which seem mutually incompatible–intuition and analytic reason. “ This text analysis can be loosely compared to Frost’s, “Desert Places”, in that nature is seemingly incompatible with emptiness and despair.

Further examples of negative connotations can be found within the third and sixth stanzas. On the third stanza the narrator expresses the following, “And the ground almost covered smooth in snow..” The choice of the words, “covered smooth..”, indicate a hiding of the ground; almost as if the snow is trying to hide the beautiful green ground from the world. Along with this negative connotation the sixth stanza also words things in a negative manner. The narrator states, “ All animals smothered in their lairs.” The use of the word smothered is an example of negative connotation. The word suggest that the animals are being suffocated, rather than comforted by their homes. Even the simplest of words within the text show signs of having negative implications. In the fifteenth stanza the text reads, “I have it in me so much nearer home.” The last word in the stanza, home, is referring to the location of the empty spaces, which represent loneliness. The fact that the narrator uses such a word to describe the location of his emptiness, not only turns the word into a negative connotation, but also creates a contradiction. The fact that home is a lonely space for the narrator contradicts what the norm for the term is. The word home in a normal setting should bring up images of serenity, comfort, and peace; however the image of home in the text is that of ultimate emptiness.

Many contradictions can be found within the text of Frosts work, “Desert Places”. As stated previously even the central theme of nature being empty is a representation of a contradiction. The narrator uses these contradiction to emphasize the point that is trying to be made clear; he alone understands true loneliness. In the sixth through seventh stanza the texts reads, “All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; The loneliness includes me unawares.” The fact that the narrator is surround by the “animals” and is still lonely shows another huge contradiction within the text. This previous statement also alludes again to the immense emptiness the narrator feels; for if he can feel so lonely while surround by others, then he must be truly empty.

Though the narrator seems to tease the reader with its contradictions; it equally confuses with its resolution of said contradictions. As stated before the narrator states, “ “All animals are smothered in their lairs. I am too absent-spirited to count; The loneliness includes me unawares”, meaning that he is lonely while surrounded by others. However, in the thirteenth and fourteenth stanza the narrator resolves this contradiction; the text reads, “ They cannot scare me with their empty spaces. Between stars–stars where no human race is”. This statement expresses that the narrator is no longer scared of their “empty spaces”. However, the statement also brings up its own contradictions with, “ Between stars–stars where no human race is”, which calls attention to the fact that he would rather be in space, the ultimate void than be around others. The fact that this contradiction is still proven to be a resolution is similar to that of a text from, “The Well Wrought Urn”. Within the passage Brooks goes on to say, “ Even after the worst has been said about man’s multiple vision, the poet must somehow prove that the child is the father to the man, that the dawn light is still somehow the same light as the evening light.” This statement from, “The Well Wrought Urn”, shows that both Wordsworth and Frost implored the same techniques in order to prove the contradiction within their work.

Throughout, “Desert Places”, Frost uses nature and contradictions to convey to the readers the depth of the text; this usage only adds to the complexity of the work overall. Frost expresses that the narrator feels so completely alone; within, not only society, but even worse so, himself.

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