Comparing Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking" to "Apples" by Laurie Lee

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  • Topic: Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy's Wessex
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Comparing Robert Frost's "After Apple-picking" to "Apples" by Laurie Lee

Poetry is an attempt to describe the nature and intensity of one's feelings and opinions. Often, however, these thoughts are too vague or complex to articulate. How does a poet translate these abstract ideas into something more tangible and workable? Simple, metaphorical objects and situations can be used to represent more elusive concepts. These can be interpreted in many different ways, however, and poets often use the same symbols to produce varying effects. By comparing "After Apple-picking," by Robert Frost and "Apples," by Laurie Lee one can see how the poets coincidentally use similar subjects to discuss a broader, more meaningful issue. Both Frost and Lee use the apples in their poems to illustrate the relationship between man and nature, and to emphasize the importance of allowing natural processes to occur without interference. In addition to the use of simplified symbols, the tone of each poem and the styles in which they are written also reflect the poets' views on the topic.

Frost and Lee both discuss mankind's interaction with the environment, using the apple to represent nature as a whole. Each poet achieves this differently. Frost focuses on the negative effects that occur when man disturbs nature and attempts to control it for his own gain. His poem speaks of the winter, and of an apple-picker, with his ‘ladder sticking through a tree.' The narrator faces with the consequences of his actions, and realizes the severity of his mistake. ‘I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight I got from looking through a pane of glass I skimmed from the drinking trough.' Frost demonstrates how quickly and harshly the cold seems to come on after the apples are unnaturally stripped away. This reflects the way the Earth is ruined by mankind stripping away its resources and not allowing it to replenish itself. Conversely, Lee illustrates the rewards received when man allows nature to proceed at its own pace. The winter in Lee's poem comes on more slowly and naturally. Starting in the summer, when the apples ‘drop like sweat from every branch,' man and nature begin to ease into winter at a comfortable speed. This illustrates how, when allowed to proceed at its natural pace, the Earth will replace what man takes from it, thus creating an equilibrium that maintains natural resources while enabling all creatures to benefit from them. In "After Apple-picking," the apples are removed before any animals are able to use them. This upsets the harmony between man and nature, and creates imbalance. Winter then moves in swiftly and painfully, much in the same manner that the damages done to the environment are quickly becoming critical and in some cases irreversible. Furthermore, all fallen apples are automatically discarded into the cider pile. Here Frost realizes how detrimental an intolerant and disrepectful attitude toward the Earth can be. This contrasts drastically with "Apples." In Lee's poem the apples are well-used by various animals, and by the end of autumn, they have served many important purposes. The narrator sees the need to ‘welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour, the hollow and the whole.' All the elements of nature have had their chance to interact. The narrator sees that all parts of nature are necessary and therefore equally beautiful. Using the apples in their poems to represent the whole of nature, Frost and Lee illustrate the effects of mankind's interaction with nature.

The tone of each of these poems reflects the message the poets are attempting to convey. Frost's poem has a tone of empty resignation. The narrator muses, ‘There may be two or three apples I didn't pick upon some bough. But I am done with apple-picking now.' He is weary and feels the weight of his actions upon him. It is as if he is surrendering to a powerful adversary. His sense of defeat is exacerbated by the knowledge that he has no one to blame for the situation but...
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