Robert Frost's use of Ambiguity


capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways

Is our destiny set forth in front of us without the possibility of our own intervention? Should we follow traditions rather than making a new path for ourselves? These are but a couple of questions that Robert Frost sets forth for us to answer. Robert Frost's use of ambiguity in the poems "The Road Not Taken," "Design," "Mending Wall," "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening, " and a few others, gives his poetry a different perspective.

Beginning with the time of birth until the time of death, people have to make choices everyday on how to achieve the goals in their lives. One can imagine life as a long winding road with millions of other roads branching off in many directions. The only problem is that life is too short to explore every single road. In addition, it is impossible for anyone to go back to a road that was passed. Robert Frost wrote in "The Road Not Taken," " I took the one less traveled by, / and that has made all the difference".

In Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," a man is standing in front of two different paths through the woods. He is trying to decide which path would bring him the greatest rewards. Frost finally comes to his decision by looking down each path and choosing the one that "was grassy and wanted wear." In other words, he does not want to follow in anyone else's footsteps. He wants to be independent. The traveler knows that the only way to accomplish this is to break away from what society has already set and take the path that had not been traversed. This decision, once started, can not be reversed. However, in choosing the less traveled road, the man says, "Oh, I kept the first for another day!" Although his intention may be to return someday and explore the other path of life, he realizes:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

One can ask, Is this a sigh of regret or is it of wonder? The title of this poem suggests that Frost's use of the sigh is referring to regret for not taking the other. Perhaps he is afraid that he will regret his decision to not take the path usually taken. On the other hand, he ends the poem in saying, "I took the one less traveled by, / and that has made all the difference." This statement suggests that he sees his decision is a positive one; however, it could also be interpreted in a negative way. Frost leaves this to the reader to decide.

We are enticed every day of our lives by evils of today's society. How are we to stop these temptations? The poem "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening" construes what the feelings are like to be tempted and having to stop yourself and do what is right. While a rider sleighs home one evening, he is tempted by the darkness of the woods. Frost suggests that perhaps a mysterious evil lurks in the forest.

This, as with almost all of Frosts poems, have a second level of meaning. This poem can be interpreted that is reflects a man's surrendering to suicide. The woods may be used to represent death. The action of "stopping by the woods" is referring to succumbing to death. When he first "stops" and is talking about the owner of the woods, he is stating that this is the land of someone who lives in town and by the time they would reach him if he did "stop by the woods", he would already be dead. The bells represents a 'wake-up call', as if the horse is his conscience. In the last stanza "the woods are lovely, dark and deep" meaning death is a restful place. It is a place to be at peace. The line "but I have miles to go before I sleep" can be interpreted that he cannot lay down in the snow because he has obligations to take care of.

These two poems, "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening" construct together to form a sub-category of ambiguity. This two poems both having a sense of pursuing something in life. In "The Road Not Taken" a man is pursuing a goal. The temptations of "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening" could be complications and decisions within the path of life.

Should life be followed by ways already set forth for us? To be specific, the poem "Mending Wall" asks if should we follow traditions rather than making a new path for ourselves. This poem is about two neighbors who are arguing over having a wall to separate their properties. We as readers are put into the mind of one of the land owners; apparently the more open minded of the two. The opposing neighbor argues that tradition holds the wall in place and that it should not be disturbed. Who could be Frost himself argues that there is a need for change, to stop the traditional ways of life and, in effect, control how your life is lived rather than have it controlled for you. This can be tied into the idea of a design or destiny.

This poem, "Mending Wall," can be compared with "The Road Not Taken." In "Mending Wall" we are questioning if we should pursue things that have already been laid forth for us. Frost expresses that the more befitting path is "the one [road] less traveled" by. This would clearly answer the question that "Mending Wall" inquires. However, in "The Road Not Taken" we are not sure if Frost did take the more rewarding path considering his sigh of wonder, or possibly regret.

A second sub-category of ambiguity contains the poems "Design" and "Mending Wall."

"Due to circumstances beyond your control, you are master of your fate and captain of your soul." - Unknown

"Fate has always been in existance." - Unknown

How are we to determine which is accurate? In the poem "Design," Frost questions if we are in control of our destiny or if there is a supreme being controlling our fate.

In "Design" we are observing a moth being eaten by a spider on a heal-all. This poem takes two of nature's innocent creatures, the moth and the spider, and then finds a tragic encounter in their lives. Why must the moth die? Why is nature so cruel? Frost questions.

In "Design," he describes nature. He observes nature and creates images from nature. Nature is usually described as pure and beautiful. However his idea is totally different and described as evil. He found a dimpled spider and a white moth on a white flower and the three white things together must have been of a design. The dimpled spider that is fat and white symbolizes death and evil, because it kills with its poison. The white heal-all holds up the spider, who holds up a moth. This moth is a symbol for helplessness and death. Then he says that these three are like the ingredients of a witch's broth. In the second verse, he is asking the reader about the image. These symbols lead us to believe that if there is a designer, could the designer have evil intentions?

The poems "Home Burial" and "Fire and Ice" have a different kind of ambiguity and requires a classification unlike the others mentioned. We are not left with a question about life to ponder. Instead, in "Home Burial," it leaves us to take a side between different characters. In "Home Burial" a child has died and the parents are trying to cope with their emotions. The mother, Amy, feels as though her husband does not show any discontentment about the death of their first son. The father on the other hand does not know how to express his emotions and continues on with life as usual.

The woman must understand that the man too lost a child. People deal with grief in different

ways. Just because the man buried their child doesn't mean that he didn't feel anything. The

child needed to be buried. The man wants to be there for her. He tells her, "Don't carry it

to someone else this time...Let me into your grief." If she won't talk to him or let him talk

about the dead child, how is he supposed to grieve?

The man does not know how to deal with his grief, so he goes on about his daily life because he doesn't know what else to do. He doesn't know how to express his emotions but also seems to belittle hers. For example, he asks her not to take her pain to someone else and teach him how to express his sadness. He says, "Give me my chance. I do think, though, you overdo it a little." How can she share her feelings if he tells her she is too dramatic? He resorts to threatening her at the end "I'll follow you and bring you back by force." That does not seem like a statement that would make someone feel like they could trust in someone.

This what we, the readers, are left with. There is no need to take a side between the parents, but we are left thinking "Who's reasoning is appropriate?" The woman does have a legitimate argument against her husband, however she should talk to him and help him show his emotions. The man should try to support his wife even though he can not do the same for him self.

How will the Earth end? Could the sun use up its hydrogen and collapse--maybe forcefully enough to cause an explosion that would wipe away the solar system, or maybe just gradually enough to freeze it? In "Fire and Ice" Robert Frost proposes the question of The Bible vs. Science. Frost had determined that desire and hate are just as destructive as their physical counterparts, fire and ice. There is definite connections between the two. Desire can consume like fire, thoughts and self-control. The heart is warm, full of desire to do the things which are right. Fire is associated with God.

Cold-hearted is what one becomes when having hate. All emotions are frozen, blocked from reasonable thinking. The mind can be cold (ice), not thinking of others feelings only themselves. If you think and live by your mind, your heart will be cold (ice) because you are not using it. It is easy to live by your mind. It is harder to live by your heart. Desire and hate, if not applied appropriately can lead to destruction, by fire or ice.

Ambiguity changes the look of Robert Frost's poetry. It was interesting for me to read these poems and try to decipher the underlying meaning, some of which took a great deal of time. HAVE NOT COMPLETED CONCLUSION

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