The symbols seem extreme at first but as we become comfortable with the idea, the symbols make perfect sense.
While some symbols in Frosts poetry are extreme, others are more subtle. In “Design,” the poet uses the smallest of objects to serve as symbols. In addition, he uses them in an unusual manner to make an impact upon the reader. He tells us the spider is white, dimpled, and fat, similar to a chubby baby. The moth is akin to a paper kite. These images a re happy ones that we do not normally associated with death. The moth is rigid, even though it is like silk and the reference makes readers think of the silk lining we find in coffins. The speaker then begins to speak about the “characters of death and blight / Mixed” (Design 4-5) as the “the ingredients of a witches broth” (7). These symbols of death create tension in the poem as the speaker ponders the big issues in life. This tiny scene represents the whole of life in that it contains aspects of nature. This prompts the speaker to consider a Godless universe, asking, “What but design of darkness to appall?– / if design govern in a thing so small” (13-4). Here we see how Frost can see so much unfolding within a single event. His observation leads him to an important question about the universe itself and the poem passes that question along to readers, so they may consider the magnificence of the universe as the poet does.
The beauty and magnitude of the universe does not need to be shouted from mountaintops to be recognized. To the contrary in Frosts world, as we see in “Stopping by Woods,” where the world is quiet but filled with beauty. Again, the poet provides symbols in nature. The poet stops to enjoy the view as the woods “fill up with snow” (Stopping 4) on the “darkest evening of the year” (5). The peacefulness of that moment is reflected with a scene so quiet he hears the “wind and downy flake” (11) falling around him. The entire scene symbolizes peace and tranquility in contrast to the real world, to which he is headed. The promises he must keep are symbols of the things that tear us away from the simplicity of life and the beauty of nature. The “miles to go before I sleep” (15) also represent the distractions of the world. Life is not always easy and sometimes it calls us away from the things we would rather be doing. This poem points out the business of life eloquently. It also urges us to enjoy those stolen moments while we can because nothing lat forever.
Frost makes excellent points about nothing lasting forever in many of his poems. In “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” gold is the primary symbol.
It represents many thing, namely beauty and all things we consider beautiful. The poet introduces ideas of new beginnings in the poem by mentioning Eden and dawn. However, not all of the things the poet mentions live forever. We read, the “leaf subsides to leaf. / So Eden sank to grief, / So dawn goes down to day” (Nothing Gold Can Stay 5-7). All things pass away — even the loveliest things in life. By looking at things this way, the poet hopes to help us appreciate the times when things are “golden” and lovely and remember them when times are not so pleasant. Everything is impermanent, which only means we should enjoy it more while we can. Life is followed by death and when we realize a thing does not last forever, we value it more.
Symbolism is an important aspect of writing. It seems to work quietly in the background while the author is painting a picture for us to enjoy. Symbols are everywhere and they allow us to gain a deeper understand of life. The paths in “The Road Not Taken,” are more than paths, they are what become the roads of our lives. Each decision we make pushes us further down that path. Some symbols represent life as they do in “Birches.” The tress change over time and change with the years just like we do. Frost even uses symbols to illustrate the tragedies in life. In “Out, Out,” we must face the fact that some of the choices we make are not always wise. “Fire and Ice” and “Design” force us to look at more destructive aspects of life. Death is always lurking around the corner and so are our negative emotions and they can sneak up on us if we are not careful. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” reminds us that nothing lasts forever by observing the fleeting beauty of nature. Frost had the uncanny ability to look at things and related them to a deeper meaning. Looking at a spider eating a moth and seeing questions of the universe is an amazing talent Similarly, relating the passing of human life to the life of a tree is equally amazing. Frost could harness those ideas and craft poems from them and not tell stories but remind us of who we are and how important and wonderful life is.
Frost, Robert. “Birches” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.
-. “Design.” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.
-. “Fire and Ice.” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.
-. “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.
-. “Road not Taken.” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.
-. “Out, Out — .” Robert Frosts Poems. New York: Pocket Books. 1971.