AnExplication of Robert Frost`s Design and Fire by Ice
RobertFrost uses a myriad of stylistic devices to help his audienceperceive things or events from his viewpoint. In Fireand Ice,Frost battles with the age-old dilemma, whether freezing to death isbetter than burning to death (Frost, line 1 – 2). According to him,either approach would achieve the intended result: death (line 5 –8). Conversely, in his poem Design,Frost brings a simple scene from nature to view – a spider on aflower holding a moth (Frost, line 2). Frost`s use of gothic imagerydepicts all three elements (the moth, the flower, and the spider) asbeing white, which, in this case, describes death and not goodnessand purity as it does in the conventional sense (Line 3 – 4). Thispaper explicates both Fireand Iceand Designand attempts to show how death, a predominant theme in both poems,shapes the development of the two poems.
Fireand Ice trailsan inverted form, interweaving two line lengths and three rhymes intoa complete poem of nine lines. Each line concludes with either –ate,-ire, or –ice, with each line containing four to eight syllables.Although very compact, Fireand Icebrings together a combination of fury, detachment, reserve, andforthrightness. The intention here is aphorism however, as usual,Frost does not reveal this truth distinctly, he remains elusive.
Onecan assume that the poem achieves so much with very few words becauseof the use of contrast amid the simple, the neat precision oflanguage and the imprecise nature of the poem`s theme. Nevertheless,the poem is successful because of its form. The poem remainssuccessful even if one decides to write it in prose lines.
Fireand Iceis, essentially, about two of the darkest human traits, the abilityto be consumed by lust, and the capacity to hate. Frost places lustabove hate. He states, "From what…tasted of desire. I holdwith…who favor fire" (Frost, line 3 – 4). Frost contendsthat even though hate is equally capable of bringing an end to theworld, lust holds the greatest potential to put an end to humancivility. However, Frost reiterates his assertions and contends that,even though lust may lead to more significant harm, hate is equallyas destructive, by stating "I think…enough of hate. To knowthat…destruction ice. Is…great" (Frost, line 7 – 8).
Inessence, the language of the poem remains simple, but the last twolines bring the poem to a hard comedown. The form of the poemprovides these lines with their soft-kill power. That is, the rhymeused, the juxtaposition of their short, punchy length alongside thatof the preceding lines epitomizes the reality check of the poem.Also, the robust enjambment in line 7 forms the much-desired tensionfor the flawless letdown. Anyone can make an assertion about death,but not anyone can change this remark into poetry. Frost skillfullybrings these viewpoints to fruition in one masterpiece.
Differentfrom Fireand Ice,Frost develops Design.In his poem, Design,Frost paints the picture of a simple scene in nature. He depicts aspider on a flower with its catch, a moth (Frost, line 2). Throughthe use of imagery, Frost creates the illusion that nature iscoldblooded. By forwarding the three elements (the flower, the moth,and the spider) as being white, he brings the reader to therealization that one may not necessarily be in a position to separateevil from good.
Frost`svoice in Designconnotes a particular type of cold-bloodedness. He observes events ina manner that seems detached. He states "Like a white…satincloth. Assorted characters…death and blight. Mixed…to…themorning right" (Frost, line 3 – 5). Frost sounds like a sadistenjoying witnessing the pain of another person, and explaining howthe individual suffers in the hands of his oppressor. He also wondersabout the motive of the spider to move to that height, and the mothto let itself get caught in the spider`s trap. He states "Whatbrought the…spider to…height. Then steered the…moth thitherin…night?" (Frost, line 11 – 12).
Frostalso uses rhyme to reinforce irony in Design.He states "What…design of darkness…appall? If designgovern…a thing so small" (Frost, line 13 – 14). His use ofrhyme to elevate irony in the last sentence grabs the attention ofthe reader and leaves him horrified of what seems to be the creepyworld of nature. Also, he replaces the color white, an image createdin the mind of the reader, with the image "design of darkness toappall" (Frost, line 13).
Also,Frost`s writing is seemingly mocking the philosophical ways that manhas invented. In referring to Design,Frost is seemingly making an ironic reference to the popularcontention from design it contends that the world appears and worksas it was designed, and therefore, God is always present since hedesigned the world. This premise comes to being when Frost begins bydepicting events using the color white, but later views them ashaving been designed with "darkness appall." In a way, thisassertion contends that although there may be good in the world, evilwill always find its way to the good, even if it does this bydisguising itself.
Thedeath theme brings both Fireand Iceand Designtogether. Death, to a larger extent, takes the center stage in bothpoems. In Fireand Ice,Frost contemplates the question of death by fire or death by ice. Hebattles with the question of the type of death that is more impactfulor profound between the two. Similarly, in Design,Frost also contends with the question of death. This time, he thinksabout the evil in the world. He writes about a spider eating a moth,and ponders on how the spider reached such a height and tricked themoth into its trap. Death by fire or ice, in addition to the death ofthe moth, seem more pronounced and dramatic in both poems. However,Frost does not necessarily talk about death in the literal sense, butthe evil that exists in the world.
Ina recap of the above discussion, Robert Frost uses various stylisticdevices to aid his audience to see things or events from hisperspective. In Fireand Ice,Frost battles with the age-old dilemma, whether freezing to death isbetter than burning to death. In Design,Frost brings a simple scene from nature to view – a spider on aflower holding a moth. The death theme brings these poems togethersince it takes the center stage in both pieces. Frost writes in amanner that is easy to understand, yet difficult to comprehend thetrue meaning of his words.
Frost,Robert. Fireand Ice.1920.