The majority of Frost's poems are written in the first-person form with a common narrator. Although the narrator in each of these poems is not necessarily the same, there are always aspects that relate to Frost's own voice. Many of the poems have autobiographical elements (for example: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Acquainted with the Night," "Mending Wall," and "The Lockless Door"), which automatically create a sense of Frost's personality. The common themes of depression, isolation, and melancholy, relating directly to Frost's personal struggles with depression and loneliness, also reveal Frost as the primary inspiration for the "narrator."
At times, however, Frost clearly detaches himself from the character of the "narrator" as a way to provide ironic commentary on the overall meaning of the poem. For example, in "The Road Not Taken," the first three stanzas can be seen as directly linked to Frost's own voice, but the final stanza (in which Frost ironically mocks the narrator's sudden nostalgia for the past) has Frost swiftly pulling out of the poem's character in order to highlight his hypocrisy to the reader.
The Neighbor ("Mending Wall")
At first, the neighbor is presented as a throw-back to earlier times, clinging to the old-fashioned habit of maintaining the property line simply for the sake of tradition. Whenever the narrator asks him to justify his habit, the neighbor says only: "Good fences make good neighbors." Over the course of the poem, it becomes clear that the neighbor is not an unreasonable traditionalist, but is actually wise in his repeated adage and is an inspiration to the narrator.
Mary ("The Death of the Hired Man")
Mary, Warren's wife, is presented in a more compassionate light than Warren in terms of her treatment of Silas. She believes that people should help those in need, whether they deserve it or not. Although she understands that Silas did not fulfill his obligation to the farm, Mary still wants to help him and suspects that he returned to the farm to die. She convinces Warren to let Silas stay.
Warren ("The Death of the Hired Man")
Warren, Mary's husband, is presented as more rational and realistic than Mary. He gave Silas several chances to prove himself as a farmhand, but each time was disappointed by Silas' unreliability. When Silas returns to the farm, Warren does not feel that he has any obligation to the former farmhand because Silas did not uphold his end of the bargain. At Mary's urging, Warren eventually agrees to let Silas stay on the farm.
Silas ("The Death of the Hired Man")
Silas is an unreliable farmhand who has worked for Mary and Warren several times in the past. After a long period of absence, Silas returns to the farm and asks Mary and Warren to let him work for them again. In actuality, Silas is returning to the farm to die. Although it is suggested that he has a wealthy brother, Frost makes it clear that Silas prefers to have his last moments with Mary and Warren because of their kindness and compassion. Because Silas dies by the last line of the poem, it seems likely that he knew that he would be too sick to work at the farm. Yet, out of pride (or perhaps embarrassment), Silas does not beg Warren and Mary for a place to die, but instead suggests the more honorable bargain of a room in exchange for work.
Harold Wilson (The Death of the Hired Man")
A former farmhand for Warren and Mary, Harold worked with Silas on the hay harvest four years before and was immediately at odds with him because of his interest in education. Although Harold studied Latin and music and ultimately went to college, Silas maintained that all of his education was worthless because Harold could not find water with a hazel prong.
The Wife/Mother ("Home Burial")
After the death of her child, the wife is inconsolable and blames her husband for seeming to be apathetic about their loss. She is particularly resentful of him for not appearing to understand why she cannot yet move on with her life. Although her husband begs her to stay and communicate with him, the wife is unable to see past her grief to salvage the relationship.
The Husband/Father ("Home Burial")
At the beginning of the poem, the husband seems to be largely apathetic about the death of his child, but it soon becomes clear that he simply expresses his grief in a different way. While his wife mourns outwardly, gazing endlessly at the child's grave, the husband uses physical labor (specifically, the act of digging a grave) as a way to mourn. The husband has a difficult time communicating with his wife, but he does attempt to make an effort to save their marriage by empathizing with her.
The Old Man ("An Old Man's Winter Night")
In this poem, the old man is a representation of complete isolation. Lacking the memory to recall former happiness, he has no past or future and does not even remember why he is in this house during the winter. However, despite his lack of identity, the old man clings tenaciously to his identity in terms of his existence in the house. He is alone, but he is nevertheless unwilling to give up his claim on the present and thus becomes a model of courage and the human spirit.
The Boy ("Out, Out--")
Frost characterizes the boy as a young man who is forced to do a man's work, even though he is a child at heart. It is because of his childish excitement over supper that the boy accidentally cuts his hand with the buzz saw and eventually bleeds to death. Even though he is mature enough to realize that his hand must be amputated, the boy still hopes to be intact as he dies. Frost presents the conflict between the boy's childhood and his adult responsibilities in terms of World War I and the fields of Europe where many young boys were already losing their innocence, limbs, and lives.
The Sister ("Out, Out--")
When the sister calls the men in for supper at the end of the day, the boy is so distracted that he cuts his hand with the buzz saw. The boy urges his sister not to let the doctor amputate his hand, but, as the boy knows, the sister is powerless. The character of the sister is particularly significant as a feminine foil to the boy, a child who is forced to do the work of an adult before his time.
The Doctor ("Out, Out--")
The doctor treats the boy after he cuts his hand with the buzz saw. Despite the boy's protestations, the doctor has to amputate the boy's hand. After he places him under anesthesia, the boy dies.
Robert Frost: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Robert Frost: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This short poem outlines the familiar question about the fate of the world, wondering if it is more likely to be destroyed by fire or ice. People are on both sides of the debate, and Frost introduces the narrator to provide his personal take on...