June 26, 2006
Word count: 765
The Use of Imagery in “Birches”
In “Birches,” Robert Frost paints lovely pictures, teaches a short course in swinging on birches, and stimulates the reader’s mind with a touch of fantasy. These different feats are accomplished by appealing to the reader’s senses through imagery. Even though the poem is not divided into stanzas, the different visions created separate the poem into three distinct parts. While Frost uses imagery through the poem, the purpose of the imagery changes within each of the three parts.
In the first 20 lines of the poem, imagery is used to entertain the reader. Through visual imagery, Frost paints a beautiful picture of birch trees “Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning” (line 6). The trees “turn many-colored” in the sun, and soon its warmth causes the trees to “shed crystal shells” (9-10). They resemble “heaps of broken glass” (12) lying in the snow. The poet then presents another view of the birches “arching in the words/Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground” (17-18). To the delight of the viewer, the poet compares this visual picture with “girls on hands and knees that throw their hair/Before them over their heads to dry in the sun” (19-20). In addition to these lovely scenes, the reader is treated to auditory images as well. The trees “click upon themselves/As the breeze rises . . . the stir cracks . . . their enamel” (8-9). One can almost hear the “crystal shells/Shattering . . . on the snow-crust” (10-11). Still another sense is touched with the description of the breeze in the trees; kinesthetic imagery is used by evoking the feeling of gentle motion. The reader may also feel a sense of weight by the trees being “dragged to the withered bracken by the load” (14). All the images in the first part of the poem are there for the reader’s enjoyment.
In the second portion of the poem, Frost uses imagery to teach. The student first learns the...