American Modernism in Poetry

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I would like to focus on the American Modernism seen in poetry through pieces work of by Robert Frost. There is one thing I noticed when reading these types of writings that really stand out as the important theme and that is questions or things that have to do with the world and the way it works and the things that happen within it. The common theme is just trying to explain the world and to make sense of it. In modern poetry there seems to be a longing for understanding the world and the way it works.

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Frost is one of the most famous poets, by analyzing his work we will see prime examples of these themes.

The first poem that comes to mind is the favorite, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” In this poem Frost is comparing and explaining the cycle of life through the seasons and nature. Before we talk about word choice let’s understand the poem. Basically, Frost is trying to say that nothing good can last forever, but in comparing these things he is using things that come and go and come and go again. So, by the use of seasons and also the words “dawn” and “day,” things that repeat themselves, he is saying that while nothing good lasts forever, something else good will always come again. He says “early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour” this is saying that though life can be beautiful at times and just life in general can be short. He shows that life is short through one word, “hour.” This poem really symbolizes the loss of innocence and growing old and changing, it is inevitable. “Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold,” it is hard to hold onto all things that are good, we are destined to change and have such a short amount of time to do so.

“The Road Not Taken,” is Frost’s’ most popular poem. In this poem the main theme is about the outcome of decisions you make and the constant wondering of “what if I had made a different choice?” The speaker is at a fork in the road and is trying to decide which path to go down and wishing he could down both to see what both are like, but he or she knows they can not go down two paths at once. They say they “looked down one as far as (they) could,” it’s like trying to see as far into your future as you can, but you can never really know the future for sure so, you never know exactly what there is to come. “Way leads on to way,” one path always leads to another, we will always be faced with many decisions through our life. He also says “I doubted if I should ever come back,” not knowing if after he made the decision if he could ever go back and get a second chance. In the end he said the path he took “made all the difference” but, he does not clarify if it was a good or bad difference. So, just because we take the same path, the one less traveled, does not mean it would turn out the same for us. We can not look into the future to see what choice will be best for us, we can not take two paths, we will always be face with more decisions and we can definitely not go back.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a very simple poem with a hidden symbolism of death and the world using nature. In this poem sleep could be a symbol for death and the woods could be a symbol for the world. The narrator is stopping and admiring the woods instead of just passing right through, like some of us do through life. He is describing the woods as “lovely, dark and deep,” a way that someone might describe the world. He says “miles to go before I sleep,” so the woods are not his last stop before he can rest. Maybe this is an innuendo into our lives and not knowing what is our last stop, hoping each stop is not our last.

“Fire and Ice” is a dark way of Frost trying to explain the only ways he can see the world ending, and it is all because of humanity and our vicious traits. He again uses things in nature to explain the world and the way it works. Fire represents desire and ice represents hatred, two very nasty traits that all humans hold that can get the best of all of us. The narrator says “I’ve tasted of desire” and “I know of enough of hate” showing that he too has felt the same things we have, we all feel those things at some point. He uses the word “destruction” to describe where hate and desire can get us. The last line says “and would suffice,” saying that both hatred and desire would do the trick in putting an end to the world. Frost is trying to explain how the world would end when in all reality, we will never actually know until the day comes. We can not see the future, just like he explains in “The Road Not Taken.”

“Design,” the poem that really has the biggest, most to the point, obvious questions out of all, who made the world, why and what kind of person are they? A big symbol in this poem is the color white, it is mentioned 5 times in the poem. We have a white spider eating a white moth on a white flower. White represents innocence, and in this situation we have one thing that is not so innocent, the spider. Frost is really questioning God and what kind of “person” he is or if he is even real at all. If God created something so tiny and so evil, what kind of God is he? And what are the other things he created capable of? Are they doing it just because they are evil or to survive? “What but design of darkness to appall?–If design govern in a thing so small,” that is the big question (Frost). Frost is really trying to make sense of a world that is chaotic, a world that really is not supposed to make sense.

In all of these poems Frost is using nature to compare to things in the real world. And all of these things are posing as questions to the world, questions we may possibly never know the answers to.

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American Modernism in Poetry. (2020, Aug 13). Retrieved from