Why Was Robert Frost Important

Robert Frost was an iconic American poet and author, best known for his works like ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and ‘The Road Not Taken’. Frost was highly regarded during the early-1900s and then again during the post-WWII period and beyond. He is hailed as one of the most significant 20th century poets in America. Frost’s influence was especially profound in the Americas, due to his emotive, highly evocative and militant literary style which shed light on the emotional and physical state of the country. He was both an accomplished satirist and lyricist, creating works which emphasised the human condition in relation to nature, morality and life.

Frost was respected for his ability to create meaningful and resonating works that could be interpreted in multiple ways. His poems frequently utilised symbolism, while exploring matters of humanity, morality, life and loss. Through his writing, Frost could capture a moment, emotion or feeling in a single line – something that was admired within the American literary community. His works were composed in an accessible, yet precise language, spoken by the everyday person, exploring universal and profound themes with accessible wording.

Moreover, Frost was extremely successful in conveying his views and beliefs on democracy, change and the role of authority, inevitably stimulating both political and cultural dialogue. Frost’s works were inspired by his vivid, yet rather disenchanted, reactions to society and its hierarchical structures. As protesters and rebels created more agitation, Frost’s works served as a source of social empathy, actively listening to their yearnings while also uncovering their personal reticence.

Critics praised Frost for his social relevance, asserting that his works could be used to explain the growing discontentment among Americans, providing an easy outlet for expression in an otherwise chaotic environment. Frost also redefined the idea of ‘the hero’ in his works by creating flawed protagonists in chaotic landscapes, humanising the reader and emphasising that humans are fallible.

In his lifetime, Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour available within the United States. His works are now taught in schools and universities around the world, with his influence acutely felt in contemporary literature. Frost was an important historical figure whose influence stretches far beyond American literature: through his works, Frost helped many realise that change and revolt were possible, as well as bettering the understanding and treatment of society.

Social Influences of Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s works directly opposed conservative, oppressive ideals and provided a pathway for rebellious, progressive tendencies to emerge. Through his writings, Frost was able to create a solidarity within the American public by highlighting the problematic hierarchical structures evident in society. Frost actively created an ‘us versus them’ mentality and helped the readers realise that change was possible.

Frost also worked to redefine socialicons, presenting people with a more candid, fallible version as opposed to the glossy, almost mythic characters which are frequently presented to the public. Especially during times of civil unrest and chaose, Frost’s efforts worked to humanise the public and to provide people with a platform to express their worries. By providing a lifeblood for the emotion of the people, Frost’s works could be used to explain the rising dissatisfaction among Americans.

The underlying influences of Frost’s works provided an idealised construction of society, rather than a chaotic, disconnected one. Many historians credit Frost’s ability as a political poet with paving the way for a collective understanding of the problems hindering society and with actively listening to the wants and needs of the public.

For instance, in Frost’s seminal work ‘The Road Not Taken’, the speaker is presented with a choice between two roads. Ultimately, the speaker chooses the less-travelled road. This choice can be interpreted as a rebellion against societal conformity – the speaker denied to go down the same route as everyone else – while embracing anti-establishment viewpoints.

Tracing the social influences and messages of Robert Frost’s works require a careful reading, yet reward readers and scholars with an unshakable understanding of 20th century America.

Philosophical Influences of Robert Frost

The philosophical influences of Frost’s works are provoking and unique in their ability to embrace both the themes of daily life, as well as larger philosophical concerns. Through Frost’s works, readers can see that the natural, everyday aspects of living are just as problematic and inviting of contemplation, as any wider, philosophical question.

For instance, Frost’s poem ‘Design’ discusses the idea of predestination. The speaker in the poem questions how, if in some design, a spider overcame a white heal-all flower, then ‘what of us …Who is or who was the spider, what goddess’? The speaker then bemoans the irony of a situation where the flower is so small and insignificant, yet it has been designed to be the victim of a larger power.

Through this poem, Frost invites the reader to contemplate what exactly predestination means and how can be used to highlight the power structures at play in daily life. In the poem, Frost infers that predestination can be used to show the powerlessness of some, yet this powerlessness often eludes the viewer: The spider, who is responsible for the power dynamic, is never mentioned in the poem.

Frost, while still remaining an accessible poet, often used questions to lead the reader down a certain philosophical path. These pathways also opened conversations between Frost and his reader, as logical, thought-provoking questions transformed the poem into a dialectical process between both parties. Through these questions, Frost is able to provoke the reader and get them to ponder their own beliefs and understandings of the world.

Frost’s poetic style forms the perfect combination of philosophy and everyday life. By using accessible language, combined with his unique take on philosophy, Frost is able to fuel thought-provoking conversations between poet and reader. Moreover, Frost’s works were particularly effective in challenging commonly-held values and highlighting the duality of human nature.

Friction in Robert Frost’s Works

Frost’s works fully embrace the idea of duality. By utilising the theme of duality, Frost was able to create friction within his works, often between power structures and life paths. Through this friction, Frost was able to reinforce his message of change, rebellion and social reform.

The duality within Frost’s works is best seen in his reoccurring theme of rebellion. Frost frequently contrasted established power structures with the frustrated public, usually personified by the sympathetic, humble protagonist of Frost’s poems. By using this method, Frost highlights the power dynamic at play between the public and their oppressors, while simultaneously empathising with those struggling against authority.

This friction is especially evident in Frost’s works which discussed images of nature, much like ‘The Road Not Taken’. With duality, Frost can explore both the beauty and ugliness of life’s everyday situations. He often described a physical image of dualism, as though beauty will inevitably be followed by ugliness, stability by chaos and life by death. Frost often leaves his readers in a state of contemplation, inviting them to contemplate these moments and to make their own decision on which road to embark on.

Frost’s complex arrangements of characters, plots and dualistic ideas provided readers with a meaningful narrative they could gradually decipher – one which could be used to actively challenge societal norms, as well as beginning conversations about the key issues of the time.

Final Thoughts on Robert Frost’s Impact

Many people credit Robert Frost with being the most influential poet of his time. While he was immensely successful in his lifetime and has since gone down as an immortalised American author, what truly makes Frost legendary is his power to provoke thought and to bridge the gulf between literature and daily life.

Frost’s works displayed his candor and understanding of human nature, yet also provided readers with an enlightenment and with a simple, yet powerful rebuttal to the established power structures. His works provided readers with an accessible platform on which they could discuss their emotions, hopes and concerns at the time, as well as providing an intimate, yet thought-provoking narrative arc.

Robert Frost left behind a vast array of influential works which challenged people’s view on life, love and human nature. Frost’s works have touched the lives of millions and his influence can be felt throughout history up to the present day.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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