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Short and Sweet? Analysis of Frost's "Fire and Ice"

Updated on July 22, 2017

The saying goes, “less is more.” Many times an individual can make his point with the furrow of the brow and a mere handful of words as opposed to an encyclopedic dissertation. And often times the shorter is the better, as well as the deeper the impact. Literature is comprised of so many different forms, there is bound to be one to which a reader can bind and this is especially true in poetry. Over time and place, poetry has seen haikus to Shakespearean sonnets to Homeric epic poems. There is none that is better than another. However, one may ask do I need three lines to appreciate the meaning or 3000? This hub will analyze, using theme and character, the poem by Robert Frost entitled, “Fire and Ice.”

Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice,” at first glance seems to be quite obvious. If the world was going to end, is it better for it to be in fire or in ice? In contrast to many of Frost’s poetry, “Fire and Ice” is quite short with only nine lines. The character from whose perspective the reader is seeing seems to have had enough life experience to determine that either fire or ice would be sufficient for the ending of the world. Thematically, the more obvious tone of this poem will always strike a chord within a reader and that is one reason it is such a great piece of literature. Frost has brought to the forefront of the reader’s mind a topic which will never cease to spark controversy, at that is the ending of the world, or the apocalypse or Armageddon or whatever one may call it. While tastefully hinting at other great literature, such as the Christian bible as well as Dante’s Inferno, Frost has successfully accomplished his task of controversy, contemplation and the question of truth all in a short but sweet nine lines.

In addition to the controversy of the end of the world, Frost’s “Fire and Ice” has undertones of conflicting human emotion. Frost gives attributes to the emotions of love or passion as well as hate. He writes, “From what I’ve tasted of desire / I hold with those who favor fire,” and also, “I think I know enough of hate / To say that for destruction ice / Is also great” (1403). Frost has managed to integrate two thought provoking elements into this poem; the end of the world as well as the strength of human emotion. Being able to do this in such a subtle manner is yet another reason this piece of literature is so successful. Readers can relate to either the fiery blaze of desire that cannot be contained or even the frigid hardness of rejection and hate. Being that the world and the people in it can rage with both fire and ice, Frost’s speaker has determined both are adequate means to the end.

A successful author or poet has the ability to provoke thought and emotion in his reader. The amazing aspect of literature is that there are so many forms and methods in which to do it. Why not do in nine lines what you can in 3000?

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. “Fire and Ice.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Baym, Nina. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. Page 1403.


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