Sunday, February 28, 2010

Robert Frost

Robert Frost Guide Questions

1. In Mending Wall, is there an equal balance between the positive and negative interpretations of boundless nature and of wall-making?

2. The speaker of Mending Wall is the one who always begins the wall-mending. Apparently he likes the ritual of making boundaries and seems to prefer walls to non-walls. Frost’s theme is not that the world would be better if every wall were destroyed, every barrier pulled down. Is it that walls, where useful, are much to be desired?

3. In Home Burial, can the different responses of husband and wife to the death of their child be reconciled?

4. In what respects does each speaker in Home Burial follow the logic of his particular character? In what respects do the speakers illustrate a conflict which is conventionally regarded as the psychological difference between the sexes? To what extent is this a poem about communication problems, both verbal and otherwise?

5. Quite apart from conventional sexual roles, to what extent does the conflict in Home Burial appear to be a symbolic drama of sexual incompatibility?

6. Home Burial is also about communication problems, both verbal and otherwise. Discuss the way hands and the shifts in body position convey meaning in the poem.

7. Does The Road Not Taken suggest any definitive way of choosing one road rather than the other? How important is the choice, and how sure can the reader be about the answer?

8. What makes the tone of The Road Not Taken seem to be not mocking but melancholy?

9. Discuss the tone of “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence” in The Road Not Taken. How is that tone significant in the poem? Does the sigh indicate regret, and regret at what?

10. In Birches, how can the skill of birch-climbing and swinging seem to stand for all skills, including art?

11. How does Birches make clear Frost’s conviction that the return to reality is the most important thing about skills, including the skills of literary art?

12. Beginning with line 21, Birches becomes nostalgic. What makes it so?

13. How does Birches make clear Frost’s conviction that the return to reality is the most important thing about skills, including the skills of literary art?

14. Discuss the aspects of nature in Design that contribute to a reaction to the poem as “terrifying.”

15. Discuss the quality of the final couplet in Design. Is it adequately suited to epigrammatic and pithy statement?

16. Design ends with three questions. Do they suggest that Frost believed in a good, a bad, or a neutral designer? Or none at all?

17. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is said to teach that “duty takes precedence over beauty and pleasure.” But is it the primary effect of the poem to teach such a moral lesson?

18. Discuss the argument that important among Frost’s themes in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening are “those of isolation, of extinction, and of the final limitations of man” ? How valid is the assertion that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening expresses a death wish—a desire to submerge the self permanently in woods “lovely, dark and deep”?

19. The “luminary clock” in line 12 of Acquainted with the Night has been interpreted as the moon, a star, or as a tower clock with a lighted dial. Which seems more suited to the poem?

20. What is the tone of the final line of Acquainted with the Night?

21. What does West-Running Brook suggest about the possibility of salvation and life after death? What does it suggest about the human need to undertake “contrary resistance” to the stream of life?

22. The parenthetical statements in lines 3 and 19–26 of West-Running Brook have been identified as intrusions by the poet into the dialogue of the farmer and his wife. What purpose do they serve in the poem?

23. Overall, what are the main characteristics of Frost’s poetry, as shown by the assigned poems?

24. .In what ways does Frost’s work provide a contrast to the poetic theories and practices of such other modernists as Eliot?

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