Critical Analysis of "Fire and Ice"

Topics: Poetry, Robert Frost, Rhyme Pages: 6 (2001 words) Published: October 6, 2008
Critical Analysis of "Fire and Ice"
One said, "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words." Four time Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, teacher, and lecturer, Robert Frost quoted this. Frost was born in 1874 and died in January of 1963. He lived in New England for practically his whole life, only moving to England for a short time to pursue his writing career in which he wrote many popular and oft-quoted poems. In his poem, "Fire and Ice", Frost uses imagery, diction and metaphors to create the themes of desire and hate, nature and its meaning, and opposites.

Tom Hanson figures that the speaker is in first person in "Fire and Ice". (Hanson 27) The speaker simply expresses an opinion instead of telling a story or receiving an insight. Sabine Sautter Leger states that the speaker insists that "from what I've tasted of desire," fire is more likely a deadly instrument. (Leger 113) "At least a fiery end might allow one to derive a certain pleasure or satisfaction from the passion that leads to our ultimate desire." (113) On the other hand, hatred only leads to destruction too quickly. (113) Yet the speakers wisdom is great enough for he knows that "for destruction ice/ is also great/ and would suffice." (113)

There is no specific audience in Frost's poem. The general topic is familiar to the readers of the twentieth- century literature, which is the end of the world. (Leger 113) It is thought that after Frost's experience in World War I, his lines referring to "ice" may speak to the calamity and misfortune the world suffered during this period. (113)

"Fire and Ice" Poetry for Students states that the poem does not have a pastoral setting. (Fire and Ice 56) It is one of the very few of Frost poems that doesn't. (56) The specific time and place in which the poem was written is unknown, although it first appeared in 1920. (56) In the short nine lines of the poem, you make a rare exit from Frosts "idyllic New England landscape" and enter for a short period a slightly more philosophical world of causes and principles. (Leger 113)

The rhyme scheme in "Fire and Ice" is pretty exact and easy to recognize. ("Fire and Ice" 60) It is represented as abaabcbcb. (60) That means that line one rhymes with lines three and four, line two rhymes with lines five, seven and nine, and line six rhymes with line eight. (60) Bruce Meyer discovers that there is also meaning behind these rhymes. "Fire" is rhymed with "desire" so that we get that feeling of passion, "the destructive intensity of something that is both consuming yet sustaining at the same time". (Meyer 64) "Ice" is rhymed with "twice" emphasizing his repetitions of "fire" and "Ice". (64)

Frost writes his poem primarily in rhymed iambic tetrameter, although three lines are in iambic dimeter. (Fire and Ice 60) "Iambic" contains two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed. (60) "Tetrameter" means that each line contains four metrical feet, while "diameter" contains two. (60) The number of beats is significant in another way, however. Lines two, eight and nine all have two beats and they all make reference to ice. (Leger 113) "In the poem, as in the world, there is still a pattern to be identified." (113)

The poems meaning is tied into its structure. (113) Frost uses the arrangement of lines to express a lesson regarding the need for boundaries. (113) Frost's verse reminds us that we need limits and confines in order to be both safe and make sense. (113) "We need rules to govern, to manage both life and poetry; immoderation in Frost's view, leads to ruin". (113)

Frost cleverly manipulates the imagery of the title, fire and ice. (Fire and Ice 58) In the nine short lines of the poem, Frost gives the possibility of two different versions of the same catastrophe. (Leger 113) The fact that the world will end is not questioned, only the manner of the destruction is yet to be determined. (113) Slowly, we...

Cited: " 'Fire and Ice ' Robert Frost 1923." Poetry For Students. Ed. Mary K. Ruby. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 56-64.
Hanson, Tom. "Frost 's 'Fire and Ice. '" Expicator. 59.1 (Fall2000): 27. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Abilene, TX, Wylie High School. 9 March 2007
Leger, Sabine S. "Fire and Ice." The Robert Frost Encyclopdia. Eds. Nancy Lewis Juten & John Zubizarreta. London: Greenwood, 2001. 112-114.
Meyer, Bruce. "Critical Essay on 'Fire and Ice '." Poetry For Students. Ed. Mary K. Ruby. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 62-64.
Serio, John R. "Frost 's 'Fire and Ice ' and 'Dantes Inferno '." Explicator 57.4 (Summer1999): 218. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Abilene, TX, Wylie High School. 9 March 2007
Thompson, Lawrance. Fire and Ice: The Art And Thought of Robert Frost. New York: Russell & Russell, 1961.
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