Analysis of Robert Frost’s “Meeting and Passing”

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Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26 in the year of 1874. His father was William Prescott Frost Jr. He was initially a teacher and later became an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin newspaper, he was of English descent and his mother, Isabelle Moodie was that of a Scottish Descent.

Robert Frost spent his early childhood in San Francisco, however after the death of his father his mother and his only sister Jeanie, moved to a small town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Frost attended Lawrence High School where he met his future co-valedictorian and his future wife, Elinor White.

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At a very young age frost seemed to be interested in reading and writing poetry, it was during his years in high school that Frost got his first poem published in his school’s magazine. After graduating, Frost went to Dartmouth long enough to get into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Frost cleared the entrance for Harvard, but chose to attend Dartmouth in 1892, because it was cheaper, but also because his grandfather blamed Harvard for the bad habits of William. Frost stayed at Dartmouth for less than a term, then left. This caused a conflict and distance with Elinor, she wanted him to finish college and wouldn’t marry him until he graduated college. Frost went back to Massachusetts to teach and to work at a variety of jobs like delivering newspapers and factory labor. He hated these jobs without having any passion, it was only after struggling did his dream to become a poet come true. The famous poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had read many of his works. Robert Frost’s first poem got published in The Independent, with the title My Butterfly: an Elegy. Frost proposed to Elinor, and she said no because she wanted him to first graduate from college and thus he attended Harvard University.

Robert Frost’s writing style can best be described as a combination of the traditional nineteenth century writing style with the twentieth century contemporary styles. Frost was a modern poet who liked to use different form of metrics combined with New England vernacular. His written work style changed slowly after some time, ending up being more conceptual and abstract in his later years. Numerous specialists believe this was to a great extent because of his religious and political beliefs. Frost used numerous self-portraying subtle elements in his work; He often expresses ordinary points of the new life in New England. His critics justify his regionalism is mostly a result of his realistic approach and not his political beliefs. Frost is one of the most well-known poets of all time and received four Pulitzer Prizes many other awards for his works. Much of the poetry Frost wrote later in his life came from this perspective of being respected and well-known poet. Frost always wrote in his own style, never imitating the current writing style and trends. He used traditional techniques to describe the world as he sees it, often in simple and short detail. Robert Frost’s first and second collections of poems were published while he was in England. A Boy’s Will, published in 1915 is a short collection of poems, which show signs of the themes and techniques.

Frost later went on to develop further. His poetry was greatly influenced by the Victorian style. Frost was in the process to realize the conversational style that is visible in his later work. A Boy’s Will had moderate reactions, and was reviewed positively by renowned reviewers and poets, including Ezra Pound. Frost’s further works aided his growing reputation enabling him to secure more teaching work and hence putting him in a more stable financial position. Mountain Interval one of his most famous collections got published in 1916. The collection contains The Road Not Taken, a poem which has become one of the most popular and anthologized in American literature, although many critics complain that it is misunderstood. It is often taken to be a celebration of individuality, a poetic My Way when the more likely interpretation is that it is a regretful work, the speaker commiserating over the lost opportunities that accompany every choice made.

Over the next years, Frost published prolifically. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 for Collected Poems, again for A Further Range in 1937, and once more in 1943, for A Witness Tree. By the 1930s, Frost was a household name in the US. He was by now given the honor of being the symbol of American spirit. It was in the same year he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. On his 75th birthday, the US Senate adopted a resolution honoring Frost, and in 1960, Congress passed a bill awarding him a gold medal.

Frost’s poems highlight various themes that subtly tend to comfort the reader in many ways. This is visible as he places value on Nature in all his works. This is probably because of the time he spent in New England; examples can be seen in many of his works where he describes the pastoral scenes which are inspired by specific locations in New England. However, the reader does not witness any restrictions as frost does not limit himself to the stereotypical pastoral themes such as sheep and shepherds. Instead, his focus lies on the dramatic struggles that exist in the natural realm of the world, such as the conflict of the changing of seasons (as in After Apple-Picking) and that of the destructive side of nature (as in (Once by the Pacific). Frost’s presentation of the natural world is one that inspires deep metaphysical thoughts in the individuals who are exposed to it (as in Birches and The Sound of Trees). For Frost, Nature is not simply a background for poetry, but is rather a central character in his works. This theme also influences a very important theme that frost covers in his works. The theme of rural life vs. Pastoral life is synced with Frost’s interest in Nature and everyday life. Frost’s childhood experiences in New England exposed him to a lifestyle that appeared to be hassle free and away from complications and yet had a value that was more meaningful than that of a life of city dweller. The farmers described by frost in his poetry hold a very unique opinion on the dealings of the world and also inculcate within them a sense of honour and duty in respect to their work and their community. Frost is not hesitant about exploring the theme of urban life in his poetry; in “”Acquainted with the Night,”” the narrator is showcased as someone who lives in an urban set up. However, this gives frost the chance to find a metaphysical meaning in everyday tasks and examine the bond between mankind and nature through glimpses of rural life and farming communities that he is seen expressing in his poetry. Urban life highlights what frost calls ‘real’ but requires the quality and clarity of life that is so particular to Frost in his work.

Further, Frost’s works highlight his interest in the everyday activities of life, because it is this side of humanity that he associates reality with. Even the most basic task or action in a normal day can have various and immense hidden meanings that need only to be explored by a poetic mind. For instance, in the poem “”Mowing,”” the simple act of mowing hay with a scythe is transformed into an intense discussion of the moral value of hard work and the traditions of the New England countryside. As Frost argues in the poem, by focusing on “”reality,”” the real actions of real people, a poet can sift through the unnecessary elements of fantasy and discover “”Truth.”” Moreover, Frost holds this belief in high regard that by emphasising on everyday life, he allows himself to better communicate with his readers and more clearly; they can empathize with the tedious struggles and tireless emotions that are expressed in his poems and hence they form a larger and more impactful understanding of “”Truth”” themselves.

In his works, Frost also deals with the importance of Duty. Duty is one of the major values in the rural communities of New England; hence it does not come as surprise that Frost employs it as one of the pivot themes of his poetry. Frost explains conflicts between desire and duty in manner that the two shall always be mutually exclusive; in order to provide for his family, a farmer must acknowledge his responsibilities rather than distract himself by indulge in his personal desires. The conflict is rather visible particularly clearly in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, when the narrator expresses his wish to stay in the woods and watch the snow continue to fall. However, is unable to refute his obligation to his family and his community; he cannot continue in the woods because of his promises to keep, and so he marches forward on his way. Similarly, in The Sound of Tree, Frost describes a character who is tempted to follow the advice of the trees and make the reckless decision to abandon his community. However by the end of the poem, the character chooses to stay because his sense of duty to those around him serves as the roots that keep him firmly grounded.

His theme of duty can also be associated with another theme that is common in his works. The theme of ‘Rationality verses Imagination, the relation with duty stems when the hardworking people whom Frost describes in his poetry are faced with situations wherein they are forced to decide between rationality and imagination since the two cannot occur simultaneously. The adults in Frost’s poetry are stereotypically to maintain their rationality as a load of duty, but there are certain instances when the hint of imagination is almost too seductive to tolerate. For example, in Birches, the narrator wishes that he could climb a birch tree as he did in his early youth and leaving the rational world behind, if only for a moment. This ability to escape rationality and indulge in the liberation of imagination is restricted to the years of childhood. After attaining adulthood, the traditions of New England life require strict code of conduct which demands rationality and a firm acceptance of responsibility. As a result of this conflict, Frost makes the poem Out, Out– exaggeratingly tragic, describing a young boy who is forced to leave his childhood behind to work at a man’s job and in the process becomes a victim of the severe social injustice and achieves death.

Something that is very fascinating about frost’s work is his ability to connect with his audience. He does this by incorporating the theme of communication. His works often witness communication or the lack thereof, is in fact a significant theme in several of Frost’s poems, as he explains it to be the lone escape from isolation and despair. Regrettably, frost also emphasises and makes it clear that communication is extremely complex to achieve. An example of such is, in Home Burial, Frost describes two terrible events: the death of a child and the destruction of a marriage. The death of the child is heartbreaking, but the inability of the husband and wife to communicate with each other and express their grief about the loss is what makes it more tragic and ultimately obliterates their marriage. Frost highlights their inability to communicate with one another by writing the poem in free verse dialogue; the speech of each character is presented clearly to the reader, but neither is able to understand the other. A similar theme is explored by him in Acquainted with the Night, in which the narrator is continuously failing to pull himself out of his depression because he is unable to bring himself to even make eye contact with those surrounding him. In each of the circumstances, the reader is does understand the knowledge that communication could have saved the characters from their devastated state of isolation. And, because of their lack of willingness to take the necessary actions to create a relationship with another being, the characters in their state are forever damned. The theme of communication further gives way to the theme of isolation of the individual. The mainstream characters in Frost’s poems are isolated in some way or the other. Even the characters that do not show any sign of depression or loneliness, such as the narrators in The Sound of Trees or Fire and Ice, are still illustrated to be aloof from the rest of society, isolated because of their distinct perspective. In majority of the cases, isolation has a tendency to be a more destructive force. For example, in The Lockless Door, the narrator has continued in a cage of isolation for several years that he is petrified to answer the door when he hears a knock. This heightened seclusion keeps the character and in reality, humans from fulfilling their complete potential and eventually makes them a prisoner of their own making. Frost suggests, this isolation can be countered through continuous interactions with the society; if the character in The Lockless Door could have gathered himself to open the door and face an invasion of his isolation; he could have achieved a superior level of inner happiness.

The theme of communication is subtly visible in frost’s poem meeting and passing. This poem by Robert frost deals with one of the many uncanny feelings that surface the human emotions and hence makes the poem more relatable to its audience. This poem illustrates the human tendency of attraction or infatuation towards one another which unfortunate as it may be is not always pursued. Not mentioned in the poem, however these feelings are not stretched forward due to situations such as the time not being right and one can argue due to lack communication and so on. Here a man and woman meet on a road and are mutually attracted. “”…our being less than two but more than one as yet… shows that even though they spoke that day there was no mingling of their identities. Although they were not completely separate due to their attraction towards each other, they were not together and therefore not one. The word decimal used here is indicative of their separateness. even though they both liked each other, they just moved on with their walk to opposite directions. The last line indicates that even though their sights are same their experience is different. Even though the man sees what the woman had passed earlier and vice versa the way both conceive what they see is different. Frost is maintaining their separateness. The poem seems to be a fond, simple memory of the poet and hence for this reason also lack’s climax. In this interpretation, the tone is rather monotone, making it an event which is perhaps negative. It feels as if even though the two spoke, their memories seemed to fade with every step they took away from one another. On the other hand critiques also believe that this Elizabethan sonnet can also be interpreted as a limited meeting of a man and a woman who may be destined to be a couple, but one who has not been paired up yet. (We can tell that the speaker is a man because his feet leave bigger footprints, and we can tell that the person he meets is a woman because she’s carrying a parasol.)

The bond between the two seems to be governed by a magnetic force. It can be said they are not just two completely separate strangers. But they’re not yet one, the way a husband and wife are said to be one flesh. “”Your parasol/Pointed the decimal off is a joke about them being somewhere between one and two. They are one point something. The dot that her parasol makes in the dust is the decimal point. This view on the other hand generates a positive impact on the reader.

After their brief meeting by the gate, the man and woman continue on their separate ways. She goes in the direction that he came from, and he goes in the direction that she came from. Each of them passes through the space that the other one has just passed through. They don’t exactly share the same experience as they will presumably share so much of life once they are a couple but each of them partakes of the other one’s experience to a certain extent. Even though they’re not yet fully connected, neither are they completely separate from each other.

The important themes that are magnificently illustrated in this poem include that of the beginning of new relationships. Through imagery which eloquently describes the warmth and comforting feeling of love, frost reminds his readers the freshness of a new relationship, the most suitable example being that of his representation of love which is represented by the lines turning, turned and saw her, they mingled in circles. This poem also displays the theme of opportunities not taken, this is because the two beings that crossed each other’s path did not pursue or confess their attraction which leaves within them a feeling of regret. This is the favourite of the poet, as his poems have a tendency to leave the reader with a sentiment of self realisation. A very important theme that the poem also highlights is the relevance of time. In the first interpretation, it seems that the man and woman attracted to each other are not in the right place in time to take forward their courtship and the reader also comes to terms with reality that sometimes in life one might fall in love, but it is not necessary for them to be the one we spend our lives with. On the hand, the second interpretation views time in a good light, it shows urgency that the soon to be couple have to become one through the institution of marriage. Hence through the themes of this poem, frost gives to his readers an emotion that is at the very heart of everyday life.

The poem is a sonnet with a Petrarchan or Italian rhyme scheme. The octave (the first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines) of a Petrarchan sonnet are not usually referred to as stanzas. The rhyme scheme used is abbaabbacdc. The language used by Frost in this poem is his signatory colloquial style which is very well visible in the first three lines and sets up an exposition. Firstly, the “”I”” character is walking along a wall, and then he is leaning on the wall to get a better view. And, unexpectedly (to the scene, but expected by the reader), “”I first saw you.”” Further, the use of caesura in the fourth stanza creates a fond tone. The poem at a larger scale uses imagery which sensitises the reader to some extent. As many argue this poem to be a sonnet indicative of attraction that is not always pursued, in the poem however this imagery has been explained through the second stanza where the parasol pointed and demanded unity that was rather not meant to be.

Meeting and passing like other works of Frost, deals with the human emotions that an individual experiences in his or her day to day lives. He charms the reader through his subtle ways in which he can empathize with the same. As a poet, frost makes his audience believe, that his poetry is rather a result of his personal experiences which tends to bring the reader closer to its poet. To conclude, it becomes evident as a reader that Robert frost’s poem and his writing perfectly showcases the sensitive and important things that people forget in their hassle prone life, he does this by reminding the reader, that he has been a witness to the experience himself.

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