American Literary Modernism: Robert Frost
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Robert Frost is a well-known Modernist writer. In his poetry he united American and English cultures. Many critics do not refer him to the American Modernist literary tradition. Evermore, some describe Robert Frost as a writer of darkness and horror, tragic poet of hopeless human fight with chaotic and senseless universe. However, the others see him the opposite way, as a poet writing about native nature and delight of rural labor full of naturally American optimism. The question of Robert Frost’s belonging to a Modernist literary tradition will be discussed in this paper.
Such subdivision of thoughts about Robert Frost’s poetry depends on the material studied. Some critics used only the texts of his poetry. The others studied the writer’s character. Thus, such contradiction revealed one of the oppositions in his life – the opposition between poetic creativity and life creativity.
Modernism as a period in literary history can be described as “modern artistic or literary philosophy and practice; esp.: a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression” (Wallace n.pag.). This period embraces the largest part of the twentieth century. It started in 1901 and finished in 1945 with the end of the Second World War. Modernism as a literary trend has distinctive features. Modernist poetry emphasizes the innovation and newness. It ruins existing rules and fnds new ways of expression required by the new time. Furthermore, the idea of complexity appears. This was a demand of difficult times, and it required complicated understanding in poetry. Modernist poetry described notions, experience and emotions directly without any explanation. Such combination influenced the complexity of the poetry. Moreover, the emphasis is made on imagination. Modernist poets were looking for a new fiction. Finally, it is an international space. The opportunity of new travelling allowed poets spreading their knowledge and creations all over the world. Despite such international opportunities, Modernist poets were struggling for national identity in poetry. Robert Frost, for instance, wrote a lot about American problems in American English.
Robert Frost is a Modernist writer. One of the most distinctive features of his poetry is the opportunity of its numerous interpretations. The writer gives his readers the right to understand his poetry differently. If to study “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, this poem can be described as a very simple for understanding. The reader imagines this beautiful winter with snowy land, lake, grey sky with fluffy snowflakes, and horses and sleigh in the center. However, the poem is not a simple nature picture; it is rather a monologue. The pronoun “I” is repeated several times to emphasize deeply internal character of the poet. Moreover, there is a play of colors – white against darknesss. Eternal antipodes of white and black emerge in the whole entity. Another opposition is between the two worlds of existence and non-existence. The picture of a man and a horse belongs to civilization. They unite with the images of wild nature. Such connection creates the feeling of something charming, mysterious and at the same time threatening.
Another beautiful Frost's poem is “Road not Taken”. The main idea of the poem tells us about the choices we make during our life roads. Sometimes people choose one direction and leave the other opportunities behind. Antithesis again appears in the poem. The traveler wishes to take both roads, but he cannot. As the traveler choses the “one less travelled by” he makes his difficult choice and sighs about the opportunities he loses on another one.
Robert Frost’s poetry has many features of Romanticism. Thus, his poems belong to the Modernist trend. They question the issues of nature, culture, existence and human experience, but in a new way. At the beginning his poetry has a direct message. Thus, it is much complicated by the form, internal meanings and emotional background. Despite simple language and ordinary images, his poems are rather indirect. They send one message, but mean another one. Such approach allows the readers make their own interpretation of the poem. Therefore, this is one of the most prominent features, which make Robert Frost a Modernist writer.