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Thoughts On Frost's Lockless Door

Updated on August 3, 2022
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LA is a creative writer from the greater Boston area of Massachusetts.

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Unwanted Reminder

It went many years,
But at last came a knock,
And I thought of the door
With no lock to lock.

I blew out the light,
I tip-toed the floor,
And raised both hands
In prayer to the door.

But the knock came again.
My window was wide;
I climbed on the sill
And descended outside.

Back over the sill
I bade a 'Come in'
To whatever the knock
At the door may have been.

So at a knock
I emptied my cage
To hide in the world
And alter with age.

When I read the poem, The Lockless Door by the American poet, Robert Frost, I always get the same image in my head. The speaker is sitting at home, reading a book (at least in my interpretation). He is drinking a cup of tea, enjoying the silence of the room. His life is going smoothly. He has had one good day after another. It is an ordinary night until there is a knock at the door. Once calm, the speaker now has a rock in his stomach. As with all of us, when we are about to be met with the one thing we’ve always dreaded, we can feel it. It even has a certain smell. You could be preoccupied with all of the worries of the world, but when it arrives, you can’t deny it. You are overpowered with the urge to run.

In the first stanza, the speaker informs us that for many years he’s avoided the person, the emotion, the idea that’s now at his door/the door of his mind. Having become comfortable in his current lifestyle, he has forgotten to keep his guard up. Sensing this, the object of avoidance has come to collect. You can see the speaker staring at the door, the years that have passed flying before his eyes. His mouth is dry. His palms are sweaty. He’s going to be sick.

The following stanza is a relatable one. We have all acted out this stanza at one point in our lives. To appear that he is not home, he turns off the light. Unable to contain his curiosity, he tiptoes to the door, trying to make as little noise as possible. Making one final plea to be spared from what is to come, he prays. We all have said this pray. It’s the one that starts, “God, if you make this bad thing go away, I’ll (insert bargaining chip here).”

The object of avoidance grows impatient. It knocks at the door, reminding the speaker that the minutes of his current lifestyle are numbered. Realizing that there is one final way he can remain unchanged, he hops out the window. This is the point when we think we have a chance to return to the minutes before our lives were interrupted, but really don’t.

The speaker’s common sense awakens in the fourth stanza. He is going through too much trouble to avoid the inevitable. If he escapes this time, the object of avoidance will only hunt him down again. Right along with the speaker, we realize that our lives are simpler when we meet problems head on from the start.

The final stanza is about coming terms with what we have long avoided. The speaker has been avoiding aging, wasting years “in a cage,” not really living because he was too afraid that the real world with all of its stresses would cause him to age. He can hide from people just as easily pretending he’s not. He only has brought unwanted attention to himself by being an emotional hermit.

Like the speaker, we often find ourselves hiding from what we know we shouldn’t hide from. We have a problem with a family member so instead of trying to resolve the problem immediately, we repeatedly digest it, magnify it, lose sleep and get sick. Although it is uncomfortable to speak candidly with some people, it’s more uncomfortable to not. It wears on you over time. Life is stressful enough without the unnecessary stress brought on by miscommunication and avoidance.

Frost’s poem reminds us that one’s life is what you make of it. While it’s tempting to live your life oblivious to all, you can’t do that forever. This poem reminds us of the phrase “your past comes back to haunt you.” This knock is every person we’ve left behind. It’s the love interest you meant to reconcile with, but never did. It’s the teacher who said you had potential at the point in your life when you just wanted to hang out with your friends. It’s the doctor who told you to take better care of yourself in your twenties because your body ages when you’re not looking. We live our lives simply, forgetting that this reminder exists until they are in front of you. This poem was written, I’m sure, for every person who hates spending time in places they used to hang out at for fear of seeing someone they once knew. This poem puts into the words that feeling you get in your stomach at 3 a.m.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2009 L A Walsh


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