Free «Robert Frost as a Modernist Poet» Essay Paper

Free «Robert Frost as a Modernist Poet» Essay Paper

Modernism is an art movement emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century and covered a whole range of literary schools. Because of this, modernism is not homogenous in terms of its principles and aesthetics but all its branches are united by the break of classical realist tradition, offering a more in-depth individualistic realism. In this sense, Robert Frost as a poet, though he might not fit in with the mainstream of the movement, can be characterized as modernist writer. His poems can be classified as modernist because of innovative approach to the form and poetic devices that he used, as well as the themes raised by him.

Frost’s poem “Home Burial” is an illustrative example of how modernist approach works in literature. While preserving the utter realism of the theme, he explores the relationship between two people by choosing the form of a dramatic dialogue. The poem explores the theme of grief, telling a story of a young family couple whose first son has died. The man had to cope with the sorrow and bury him with his own hands in the house yard. His wife cannot overcome her devastation and blames the man for being indifferent. The miscommunication between them does not allow a chance for relief because the gap between them is increasing. The woman does not want to accept her child’s death, while the man beliefs they should do so for the sake of their family and their future. The poet focuses on inconsistency of human language and the lack of understanding between people, which is clearly a modernist perspective. The vision of the world is pessimistic, which reflects the dissatisfaction typical for all modernist art. When addressing her husband, the woman says:


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No, from the time when one is sick to death,          

One is alone, and he dies more alone.


But the world’s evil. I won’t have grief so

If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t! (Frost)

Thus, the poet focuses on human alienation from the world and from each other, as well as inability to capture any meaning in human existence. Hence, the beginnings of modernist philosophy can be found in Frost’s poetry, the ideas of which will be later developed by Kafka, Camus, and other writers related to existentialism.

The poem is also close to modernism in terms of form and devices used by the author. Although it uses classical rhyming, its rhythm is quite remarkable as well as the genre is innovative. The poem sounds in the way to resemble prosaic speech, which is quite unconventional and reveals the modern approach of Frost who seeks for new forms of expression. Another aspect of modernism lies in the fact that the plot is focused on implicit meanings rather than explicit ones. So, the author attempts to construct dialogues in the way that the reader could find more meanings about the characters’ inner life.

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Another poem by Frost, “Never Again Would Bird’s Song be the Same” is claimed to be another sample of his modernist writing. As Kern states,  the poem “provides a good example of what might be described as his more advanced modernist thinking… it demonstrates the extent to which his modernism continues to be bound up with his notion of sentence sounds”( Kern 15). Although it is a sonnet by form, the content is not typical for a sonnet at all. The poet contemplates on how humanity has been changing from start by picturing the story of Adam and Eve who had to continue their existence on Earth after being exiled from Eden. The poet suggests that this event is not tragic but is rather a revelation and an opportunity to face new experiences and meanings. The intimate relation between humanity and nature is observed, and is especially visible through the character of Eve who affects the way birds are singing by her voice. The poem clearly shows that when humanity is born, its effect on nature is inevitable, but not necessarily negative; it is rather a transformative dance and song, where both nature and humans participate and appeal to each other. Like modernist writers, the poet starts distant from his character and is ironic about his observations. However, the two of them merge by the end of the poem, and such a dramatic change of the point of view is quite in line with modernist approach:

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Never again would birds' song be the same.

And to do that to birds was why she came. (Frost)

In conclusion, it is worth saying that Frost is not typical as a modernist writer, so there is still a debate about whether he should be classified as one. At the same time, it is obvious that his poetry is a product of his epoch and is modernist in many ways, including the themes and the poetic devices. Thus, although Frost is not a mainstream writer of modernism, he is clearly under its influence and he is also the one who did influence the movement.

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