“Here were the eyes of death, and a man who was looking in them for the first times.” (GEORGE AELIOT, Middlemarch). Robert Frost’s “Birches” poem is a complicated piece of literature that centers around the concept “life”. This piece of writing has many figurative elements that force the reader to look beyond the words. Frost uses a variety of literacy devices to create a narrative that recreates a life-changing event.
Frost begins the poem with a central image. This lets the reader know the next steps. “Birches” has a free verse that uses the prevailing Iambic foot. Visually, the poem has only one selection. It is split into five sections based upon changes in topic or speaker’s ideas. These breaks are not obvious to the reader immediately. These breaks are dependent on the reader understanding the poem and the speaker’s beliefs. From line one, the poem provides background information to the reader until line 5, when the truth is revealed. Paradox later makes this truth fiction. The truth is followed by fiction. Frost next presents the reality and links the speaker to previous lines. Then, Frost provides a resolution that reflects the speaker’s feelings. Frost makes extreme use of contrast to show that Frost’s poetry depicts a speaker who must choose between rationality or imagination. They cannot exist simultaneously.
The title, “Birches”, introduces readers to the controlling metaphor. The birches are a symbolic representation of the speaker’s childhood. They are used by him to help him return to his “swinger in the birches” status (Frost, 42). The poem is literally a series of devices that he uses to reveal the controlling metaphor. Frost gives Frost the title to Frost’s conflict because Frost believes the speaker is trying to return to his childhood with the birches. He has lived a very lonely and terrible life. The poem is only the beginning of the poems that reveal more about the speaker.
Frost gives no indication to the reader, but the poem’s speaker is clearly an older man. Frost provides enough information to make the assumption that Frost has used the phrase “So was my once self a swinger birches;” to reveal that the speaker is older. (Frost. 41 & 42). He regrets his past and wishes he could start over. Frost, 26. His childhood was not happy. He also lived his whole life as a single man “some boy far from home to learn baseball.” (Frost. 25) And he “could play alone”(Frost. 27). This is without the help of a woman. The poem gives us more insight into the inner battles of this man. This paradox reveals his conflicted mind.
The background information in this section, “Birches”, is provided because the reader will need it to understand the rest. The visual imagery of “I See Birches Bend to Left and Right” (Frost.1) is illustrated by an example “darker Trees” (Frost.2). The first section provides two sets (Frost 1 and Frost 1-2) of opposites. These are used to present the main conflict of the speaker’s existence. This section also represents contrast. It examines an image, speculates on why it is bent, and then decides which truth is being told. These are not only the starting point of many literacy techniques, but also lead to the paradox.
The paradox begins in the second section. Frost begins the poem by telling us the truth about why the trees are bent. (Frost 5-6). However, later we find out that this “truth” is really fiction. We will see many different types of imagery in this section, including sound as Frost describes how tree branches “click upon itself” (Frost 7, 7). The speaker also uses sexual imagery by using the words “like young girls on hands and knees, who throw their hair up before them to dry in the sunlight” (Frost 19, 20). Frost uses sexual imagery to describe an intimate experience. Frost uses similes when comparing the trees with the “girls on knees” (Frost 9,). This section, just like the rest is jam-packed with literacy devices.
The capitalization at the end of the word “Truth”, (Frost-21), shows that the reader is aware of the difference between the actual events and the thoughts in the speaker’s head. Dramatic language includes “With all the fact she has to say about the Ice-storms” by Frost, 22. The third section also gives the reader the opportunity to see the first conversation between the speaker and the listener. This is the last piece we have before the paradox. The speaker might be very imaginative and believe there is truth in this poem. You also get to see how the speaker views reality. He doesn’t like it and doesn’t want any truth. Frost, 22.) The speaker is being sarcastic by saying “with her whole truth”. This is indicative of his negative and angry attitude. Frost made sure to take advantage of this section’s literacy opportunities.
Section four presents fiction, but it quickly becomes truth in the paradox. The speaker looks at the trees and believes that they have been bent by a young boy. The speaker uses sexual imagery again when he says that he rode them down until they became stiff and not one of them hung limp (Frost 30-33). Although it seems like he is talking about trees, it is actually ametaphoric and a description masturbation. A line twenty-four through twenty-eight also contains an allegory, as the four words “one…not”, (Frost. 32), are repeated four more times. This is how the speaker describes his childhood as a boy. It was an unhappy youth. He is not really referring to the boy in the tree when he says “learn to not launch out too soon” (Frost 34). Instead, he is referring to living life to its fullest, which is what he did not do. This leaves the reader with regrets and he longs to live his life to the fullest. The reader is again amazed at the use of literacy tools.
Section five contains the paradox and summarizes the speaker’s thoughts before his final resolution. This section is the only one in the entire structure with a break that represents a transition. This section starts with the paradox, “So was myself once a swinger from birches;” (Frost 42-43). It makes the whole structure seem like an opposite. It forces section two and four into a symbiotic relationship and leaves the reader asking the question: What is truth? This section contains the controlling metaphor. “I’m too tired to think, and life is too hard as a pathless tree” (Frost 45-45). Frost uses tactile imagery in addition to all other imagery. Frost’s section also reveals the reader about fate and religions. Frost mentions that the speaker is Christian. (Frost. 13). Frost also discusses reincarnation. Frost mentions that “may no destiny willfully misunderstands” me (Frost. 51-52). The speaker believes that he can leave Earth and come back to relive another lifetime. Paganism, also known in mythology, now appears in “Birches”. The speaker’s anger at Fates is evident. They are responsible for determining your life. Frost doesn’t only use literacy devices, he also uses another device to create an outstanding poem.
In the last section of “Birches”, the speaker finally accepts that he will never live again and has to make a decision. It sums everything he has thought and condenses his entire poem. Italicized word “toward” from Frost, 47 shows that he was aiming for heaven but failed to reach it. This entire part of Frost’s poem is an example if thematic imagery. It gives the reader an image which relates to his theme (metaphor). Frost uses the metaphor “climbing from a birch” (Frost. 55) and the “swinger from birches (Frost.60) which are both repeated throughout Frost’s poem. Frost’s last line (Frost, 56-59) tells us that while he may need to go to another place, he also needs to return. The tree provides a great analogy for the speaker’s feelings. Although the tree may grow higher than the ground “towards hell”, it remains rooted in the ground. Thus, the person climbing it is always connected with the earth. Frost ends the poem and leaves the reader wondering about the truth.
The reader of this poem gets the end-of-life experience of the speaker (an older gentleman) and it leaves them wondering about their lives. The speaker gives the reader a detailed but discrete explanation about his childhood. This makes the reader feel sympathy for him and helps them to understand the horrible events that he went through. The setting for the poem is revealed as an icestorm. The sad, lonely, and tragic life of the speaker forces readers to reflect on their lives and make decisions that will affect their happiness. Religion is used to encourage the reader to think about the speaker’s ideas. Frost uses “Birches”, which mentions Christianity, to show that the speaker believes in Christianity. However the poems also mention Buddhism and Pagan mythology. Frost requires that the reader has a basic understanding of each religion to understand their presence in Frost. Buddhism is made clear by the speaker’s mention of recantation. The Pagan religion is also highlighted in Frost, 51.
Robert Lee Frost, born March 26, 1874, died January 29, 1963. Frost’s work is a good example of this. Frost was born California. But, his father passed away, so he moved into the house of his grandmother and his sister in Massachusetts. Frost met Elinor white, his high school sweetheart, during high school. They went on to graduate and then got married. A year later, Elliot was born. Their love story was not without its challenges. At first, she refused to marry him because she wanted her high school diploma. (Pritchard and Associates, 2001) The couple continued to deal with life’s challenges. Their second child, Lesley Elliot, died shortly after their birth. Frost suffered a lot from all of these sad events, including the death of one child through suicide, another who developed a mental illness later on, and a fourth who died just weeks after she gave birth. Frost was initially not taken seriously, and was repeatedly rejected. He continued to stand by his work and is now a very well-known poet. (Poets.org, 2008)
Literacy devices are utilized throughout “Birches” to provide the reader a description of the final days of a senior man. Images are used throughout the poem. All play a key role in providing a visual image to the reader as they read the poem. It is very imaginative, breaking down the poem into six sections. The poem’s paradox later makes it possible to distinguish truth from fiction. Frost’s words reveal that the speaker is an older man. The reader can also experience Frost’s tone towards the topics of the poem.
Robert Frost uses many literacy devices, including similes and symbols, metaphors, similes, repetition, analogy. Allegory, allegory. Comparisons. Assonance. Metaphors. This poem is a masterpiece of literature due to its extreme use literacy devices.