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Themes in Frost's 'After Apple-Picking'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1002 words Published: 11th Aug 2021

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Robert Frost said, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom” (“Robert Frost Quotes”). This is a philosophy of Frost that he put into the creation of After Apple-Picking. The title After Apple-Picking illustrates that the poem is of a dying man who is looking back on his life, represented by apple picking, and of his regret for unaccomplished desires. The old man only wishes that he could do more before he dies, hoping it would give meaning to his life. Robert Frost uses tone, rhythm and diction, and figurative language to develop the theme of life’s desires and significance in existence.

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The tone of After Apple-Picking created the theme of the poem. There are two main tones, a happy one and a somber one (“After Apple-Picking”). They come together to create the theme of desires and significance in life. The poem begins with a happy tone. The old man is happy and welcomes his fate of death. He shows this by saying things like he is ready for heaven; he is finally done with picking apples. In line eight he says, “I am dosing off,” he is indicating that he has finished everything planned and is ready for his judgment. This tone sets up the theme of desires and the significance in life, but does not complete it. The later part of the poem is sad. He is finally accepting his fate, when he realizes that he was wrong and there were things he wished to complete. Line nine says, “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight,” this is Frost’s way of saying that he is trying desperately to erase the uncompleted desires from his mind, which he is unable to do. The fact that he did not complete his dreams bothers him, and makes him begin to think his life had no meaning.

The rhythm and diction Robert Frost uses in After Apple-Picking develops the theme of the poem. Most of the poem has a smooth iambic rhythm, such as line two, “toward heaven still.” This is an iambic rhythm because the stress goes on the second syllable of most of the words. Some of the verses however, seem like they do not fit, like in line fourteen, “But I was well.” This is not the iambic rhythm since it does not have the stressed syllable. Frost uses this rhythm in a clever way, to show the narrator dozing off but waking up because of his determination to complete life’s desires (“Poem: Robert Frost’s After Apple Picking”). The old man was on his death bed clinging to life to finish those desires, which he never accomplished. The diction is a curtail part in the development of the poem. Frost uses diction to develop the theme of meaning to life in his poem. Words like “heaven” in line two, “sleep” in line fifteen, and “dreaming” in line seventeen are curtail. They all start the development in the significance to life by referring to a life after this one. They all are words used to describe death and the place that follows. Heaven represents the heaven God created, while sleep and dreaming refer to his inevitable death. Frost develops a sad mood by using other words in the poem. Word such as “overtired” in line twenty eight and “struck the earth” in line thirty three create a sad sense. These words represent the regrets of the old man. Overtired shows that he is finished chasing his dreams and must put them behind him, and struck to the earth means that those dreams and now unreachable. The rhythm and diction both are Frost’s way of telling people that they should make the most of their lives and do whatever they aspire for before it is too late.

Frost uses figurative language to develop his theme of accomplishing desires and living a life with meaning. There are two uses of the figurative language, joyful and gloomy. The figurative language in the first part of the poem is joyful and calm (“After Apple Picking”). The metaphor in line two, “Toward heaven still,” is Frost’s representation of a peaceful end to life. He is saying that because he brought meaning to his life through the love of Christ he will spend an eternity in a joyful place. In line seven Robert states, “Essence of winter sleep is on the night,” this represents the peacefulness of his passing. It is sad that he must die, but this shows that he is not saddened because he compares it to the peace of sleeping on a cold winter night. The second part of the poem is somber and depressing. Lines twenty eight and twenty nine says, “Of apple-picking: I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired.” This is the sad part of the poem. This is the old man saying that he wanted to do so much in life but had to give up on it because he reached the point that he could no longer continue. Line 13 says, “It melted, and I let it fall and break.” This represents the dreams of the old man. He waited too long to complete them, so they fell apart. He realized he was far too old to complete his desires, so he let them go. The figurative language shows that the old man did not accomplish everything he wanted, which he felt would give more meaning to his life.

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Tone, rhythm, diction, and figurative language are all devices that Frost uses to set up his theme of completing desires in life and bringing meaning to life. The happy and poignant tones blend together to develop specific parts of the theme, such as not completing the desires and having no significance to life. The rhythm and diction are Frost’s ways of showing that the old man is dying and his attitude changes from being happy to being depressed. The figurative language explains how the old man was not able to complete his desires and changes his mind set from having meaning in Christ, to having no meaning at all. The point Frost is trying to make in After Apple-Picking is that if someone wants to do something then they should do it. He thinks people waste their lives trying to bring their lives meaning by impressing others, but they should really bring meaning by completing to their dreams. Frost wants people to evaluate their life and discover their dreams and the meaning in their life.


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