Robert Frost has written on almost every subject, but alienation and isolation, both emotional and physical, are the major themes of his poetry. His, ‘book of people’, North of Boston, is full of solitaries who are lonely and isolated for one reason or the other. Frost is a great poet of boundaries and barriers which divide men from men and come in the way of communication, and so result in lack of understanding and friction. Man is not only isolated from other man, but Frost pictures him as also alone and solitary in an impersonal and unfeeling environment. Separateness from the Stars
This concern with barriers, barriers which result in alienation and loneliness, is a predominant theme in Frost’s poetry. There are barriers at least of five kinds. First, there is the great natural barrier, the void, the space, which separates man from the stars. Man foolishly tries to bridge this gap, but all his efforts in this respect are of no avail. Such efforts only make him more conscious of his own littleness. As he tells us in the Lessons for Today, the contemplation of the ghast heights of the sky has a belittling effect on man and he is overwhelmed by a terrifying sense of his own solitariness in the universe. In the poem entitled Stars, the poet tells us how man gets attracted by nature only to be disillusioned by it. Here, the stars shining in the sky at midnight do not lend any glory or state to the gazer. Rather, they produce a note of disenchantment: “And yet with neither love nor hate
Though the stars like some snow-white
Mineroas’ snow-like marble eyes
Without the gift of sight.
Elsewhere, in Astro Metaphysical, love of looking at the changing skies leads to an unwelcome situation: Till I have reeled and stumbled
From looking up too much,
And fallen and been humbled
To wear to Crutch”.
In another poem, we find how clever human plans to establish relationship with nature are thwarted. The protagonist of The Star-Splitter, purchases a telescope with the insurance money that he gets by burning his house down. He gazes at the stars but cannot escape the question that raises its ugly head towards the end: We’ve looked and looked
But after all where are we?
Secondly, there are the barriers, between man and the immediate natural world,—the barren and desert places—which man must conquer, reclaim and cultivate. He must constantly wage a war against such wildernesses, if he is to survive in an environment which seems hostile to him, which at least, is not meant for him and in which he is an alien. Says Marion Montgomery, “there are those souls, of course, who are content to have a barrier stand as a continual challenge which they never quite accept; such is the old teamster of The Mountain who lives and works in the shade of the mountain he always intends to climb but never does. And there are those who accept the challenge and go down in defeat; the deserted village of the Census Taker with its gaunt and empty buildings is evidence of such failure. The woman in A Servant to Servants has lost out to the wilderness by losing her sanity. Her days are spent in caring for the house while the men are away, and the emptiness of the world has overcome her. There are others on the border line of tragic failure. The Hill Wife, though not out of her mind, still has a fear of her house once she has left it, deserted it, and has to return to it. When she comes back she has to reconquer it: They learned to rattle the lock and key
To give whatever might chance to be
Warning and time to be off in flight.
Courage is needed to reclaim at home. The preacher in the long poem Snow insists on going into the heart of the blizzard when he could remain overnight with his neighbours with no inconvenience to them or himself. But he must go and conquer the blizzard “Wherever there is failure, wherever the natural world has won out there are always the young who follow the restore where...