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Robert Frost and the Problems we have in Life

an analytical essay written by a student

"The poetry of Robert Frost often focuses on problems people face in day-to-day life. Discuss this statement with reference to two or three poems by the author."

From 1874 to 1963 there lived a man. This man was to become one of the most famous poets of our time. He is Robert Frost. As we flick through books of Frost's poetry, we will all notice one thing: many of Frost's poems deal with the subject of nature. But as we read his poems we will notice another thing: his poetry deals with the problems people face in life. The subject of nature is really a small illusion. The situations in nature, in which his poems are based on, are really metaphors for problems people face in day-to-day life. Taking a look at Frost's poems, we come across many that deal with common problems and ways of life. We will take a look at The Road Not Taken, which deals with making decisions and choices in life, A Time To Talk, which deals with how people should treat their friends, and They Were Welcome To Their Belief, which deals with getting old and the opinions of other people.

The Road Not Taken is a four stanza poem. It may be found on page 68 of Poets and Poetry, or page 77 of Robert Frost, Selected Poems. At first glance the subject matter seems to be about nature, about a man coming across "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." This is where we come to our first stop point. In life, every day we have to make choices. We have to do one thing or another. The roads represent the choices we have to make in day-to-day life. If we travel down one, it leads to one place, if we travel down the other it leads to a different place, but we may only go down one, we may only see what's at the end of one. We may wish to travel down both roads, we may not want to choose, but we cannot, and though it may not be to our liking, as it says in the poem "And sorry I could not travel both", we must only choose one.
In the lines "And looked down one as far as I could,/To where it bent in the undergrowth;" Frost gives us some advice on making choices. He tells us to contemplate the outcomes of each 'path', to 'look down one as far as we can' even though we may not be able to see the end. He suggests we should look at both choices this way first before we make a decision. "Then took the other, as just as fair,/And having perhaps the better claim," is where we make our decision. We have looked at the possible outcomes that we can foresee of each choice, and have made one, and have taken what looks to be the better one.
Frost tells us not to totally disregard the other 'path' in the lines "Oh, I kept the first for another day!/Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/I doubted if I should ever come back." He is saying that he has kept the decisions he made in his mind; so that should he ever come back to the same diverging path some day ("Oh, I kept the first doe another day!"); he would know what choices have been made ("Yet knowing how way leads on to way") and maybe make a different choice.
In the second stanza, it leads us to believe that Frost, if he is indeed the 'character' in the poem, chose the second path "Because it was grassy and wanted wear;" that is, because it was the road which less people took. He took the road because no one else took it, other people might have seen the two paths and taken the used path just because it was more used that the other, even though it was "as just as fair," - we know that no one else took it because of the line "In leaves no step had trodden black." The line "And having perhaps the better claim," tells us that perhaps that this path, this choice which he made would be a better path for people to take than the other one. Frost is trying to tell us that just because everyone else makes one decision doesn't mean we have to follow the crowd. We should make our own decisions.
In the last stanza, Frost contemplates his decision. He decides that because he took the path that nobody else wanted to take, it has changed his life. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -/I took the one less travelled by,/And that has made all the difference." He may regret his decision ("I shall be telling this with a sigh") or regret not being able to see where the other path or decision leads to, but he does agree in the end that taking the different path made the difference in his life.
Thus The Road Not Taken is a poem about making choices in life. Frost tells us that we have to make decisions, but to contemplate the choices before we make the decision, and that just because everyone makes one decision doesn't mean we have to follow them. We should make our own decisions, not follow other people's decisions, and because we make our own decision, that will make the difference in our life.

A Time To Talk is a small one stanza poem. It may be found on page 83 of Robert Frost, Selected Poems. It is a poem dealing with what some may not consider an important topic, but really, it is, as it determines what people think of you. It deals with how you treat your friends.
"A friend calls to me from the road/And slows his horse to a meaning walk," he says. He refers to a friend who calls to him while he is working his hills and wishes to talk to him. "I don't stand still and look around/On all the hills I haven't hoed,/And shout from where I am. 'What is it?'" he says. He is trying to tell us how to treat our friends properly. If we do all the things that he said he doesn't do, you show disrespect to your friends. Your friend has come to talk to you, and instead you show disinterest and impatience because you have work to do. "No, not as there is a time to talk." Frost says; stating that there is a time to do work and a time to talk to people. "I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground/Blade-end up and five feet tall,/And plod: I go up to the stone wall/For a friendly visit." He tells as the proper way to treat a friend who visits you to talk. Stop what you are doing, and greet your friend warmly with respect.
Though A Time To Talk, is a short poem, it has a strong meaning if you look at it closely. The way you treat others determines how they think of you. If you do what Frost suggest in his poem, they will think you a nice person, a true friend, but if you do what he did not do, they will think you arrogant and rude "who is this guy to treat me like that when I come to pay him/her a visit?" Thus, we should treat all peoples well and with respect and patience, even if we have a lot of work to do.

They Were Welcome To Their Belief is a four stanza poem that may be found on page 176 of Robert Frost, Selected Poems. It deals with the aging of a man and what people think of him.
"Grief may have thought it was grief/Care may have thought it was care./They were welcome to their belief,/The overimportant pair." Frost is trying to tell us here that people may think what they want, but when they believe that their opinion is the correct one, they are being arrogant and inflating their opinions of themselves ("The overimportant pair."). They are saying that some thought it was too much grief that made him old, and made his hair turn white, or too much care.
But he tells us "No, it took all the snows that clung/To the low roof over his bed,/Beginning when he was young,/To induce the one snow on his head." He is telling us that each winter made one hair on his head white. "But whenever the roof came white" which implies winter, and since winter comes once a year, he tells us it was not grief or care which made his head turn white, but simply the going of the years, and he accepts that, he accepts aging, he does not blame it on grief or care. This idea of the turning of the years is shown in the lines "But whenever the roof came white/The head in the dark below/Was a shade less the colour of night,/A shade more the colour of snow."
Frost makes references to the extreme cold with the line "the snows that clung/To the low roof over his bed," and "But whenever the roof came white" - it is in fact not snow that clings inside, but frost. Frost, in fact, could be, and probably is, making a subtle reference to himself. This also gives a new meaning to the particular line "Grief may have thought it was grief." as Frost would have grieved much over the deaths of two of his children, one who died at the age of four, and one who had died in infancy, and the death of another one of his daughters in 1934. This is conceivable as They Were Welcome To Their Belief was first published in 1936, in his anthology of poems entitled A Further Range, making it probable that it was written before 1936. And yet, Frost does not blame his aging and white hairs on grief, he states in this poem that he accepts simply, that he is getting older.
In the final stanza Frost reaffirms his belief that other people may think what they want in the lines "Grief may have thought it was grief./Care may have thought it was care." He then goes on to tell us how it was not grief or care but old age by saying "But neither one was the thief/Of his raven colour of hair."
They Were Welcome To Their Belief gives is insight into what other people might think of us as we grow older, about how our hair might turn white. But Frost reminds us not to blame the changing colour of our hair to things like grief and care, that we should accept that we are simply aging; growing older with each year.

Another 'convention' that is used in the poems of Frost is that they are all written in 'simple' English. 'Simple' English means that the language used is language used everyday, in conversations and letters. A person can look at one of Frost's poems and understand every single word there, without looking at the dictionary. This may be a link to the "problems people face in day-to-day life." Frost uses 'simple' English so that people may better understand his poems, and perhaps, as a result, better understand the messages he is trying to get across to us.

Looking at the three poems The Road Not Taken, A Time To Talk, and They Were Welcome To Their Belief; we find that Robert Frost's poetry does indeed focus on the problems and issues people face in day-to-day life.
The Road Not Taken bases itself on what happens to us about every five minutes; decision making. The choices we make everyday. Frost tells us how to deal with this issue, by weighing the possible outcomes of each decision; and he also tells us not to give into 'peer pressure'; that it is ok to be different.
A Time To Talk deals with how we should treat our friends, and thus, how we 'mould' people's opinions of ourselves, as that is what so many of us are worried about. Frost tells us to treat them with respect, to put them above the work we may have.
Finally, They Were Welcome To Their Belief deals with growing older. When we're young, we're in a rush to grow up, but when we're older, we wish we wouldn't age so quickly. People tend to blame things like grief and stress for their white hairs which mark aging, but Frost tells us to simply accept the facts. We are getting older with each year.
These three poems are examples of Frost's poetry which focus on the problems that people face in day-to-day life. There are many others, such as Mending Wall, which deals with the barriers one puts up in relationships, and Home Burial, which deals with an argument between husband and wife over the death of their child, which hits very close to Frost's personal experience, with a the loss of many children. Perhaps this is the reason why Frost's poems often deal with day-to-day life; he has had a wealth of experience in the problems of loss and sorrow, and has experienced and thought on the other problems of life. Maybe he is just trying to impart a little of what he has learnt to the rest of us.

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