Analysis of Robert Frost's Fire and Ice
For Robert Frost, poetry and life
were one and the same. In an interview he said, 'One thing I care about,
and wish young people could care about, is taking poetry as the first form
of understanding.' Each Robert Frost poem strikes a chord somewhere, each
poem bringing us closer to life with the compression of feeling and
emotion into so few words. This essay will focus on one particular poem,
the meaning of which has been much debated due to the quantity of words
used, or the lack there-of.
There have been many readers of Frost's poem "Fire and Ice", thus
being interpreted in many ways. Many readers would interpret the poem to
mean something about 'the physical end of the world, or the end of the
physical world' (1). Lawrence Thompson views the poem as hinting at the
destructive powers in "the heat of love or passion and the cold of hate,"
sensing that "these two extremes are made so to encompass life as to be a
gathering up of all that may exist between them; all that may be swept
away by them" (2).
Upon closer examination of "Fire and Ice", I found a distinct
parallel that closely mirrors the tale of Dante's Inferno. The Inferno is
the first part of Dante Alighieri's poem, the Divine Comedy, which
chronicles Dante's journey to God, and is made up of The Inferno (Hell),
Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise). In The Inferno, Dante
begins his journey on the surface of the Earth, guided by the Roman epic
poet Virgil, and spirals his way downward through the nine rings of Hell.
On a fundamental level the nine lines in "Fire and Ice" reflect a
similarity to the nine rings of The Inferno, although Frost's poem does
not consistently spiral downward, as does The Inferno. Dante's vision of
Hell was cone shaped, made up of increasingly tight circles. Fire was
used occasionally in tormenting the sinners throughout Dante's travel into
Inferno, until the ninth ring was reached. Upon entering the ninth ring, a
comparatively blameless giant helped Dante and Virgil into the pit.
Torrents of wind had a group of sinners, giants, frozen into a solid lake
of ice. A three headed demon, Lucifer, at the center of the lake, was
causing the sinners, and himself, to be frozen in place for eternity by
the frenzied beating of his wings.
The understated opening two lines in Frost's poem, "Some say the
world will end in fire, / Some say in ice," at first seem merely to
suggest the biblical and scientific predictions about the end...