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Robert Frost's Fire and Ice: Analysis & Theme

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  • 0:03 Destruction in ~''Fire…
  • 1:12 Fire
  • 1:52 The Same Outcome
  • 2:15 Ice
  • 2:31 Destruction and Salvation
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joe Ricker
Robert Frost's poem, 'Fire and Ice,' conveys a simple but important theme about human behavior. Delve into this lesson to discover how grim this poem's perspective is on hatred and obsession.

Destruction in 'Fire and Ice'

Robert Frost's poetry is some of the most memorable and influential in the English language. Having won four Pulitzer prizes for his poetry, it's fair to say that Frost knew a thing or two about theme and using imagery to evoke emotion in his audience.

'Fire and Ice,' a poem of only nine short lines, is written about destruction, about the inevitable demise that hatred and obsession will bring. In the first line of the poem, Frost indicates the end, or demise, and the two ways in which it can happen: fire or ice.

'Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.'

The 'world,' as it's intended in this poem, does not refer to the earth, but the life one lives. Essentially, 'fire' and 'ice' refer to obsession and hatred, respectively.

The poem is meant to serve as an analysis of one's life and how it is lived. Should a person be driven by an unhealthy obsession, then their demise will be fiery and quick. Obsessions can be any number of vices that one prioritizes over healthy pursuits or a productive quality of life. If a person is overcome with hatred, their demise will be cold and unforgiving.

Fire

Frost's connection of fire and desire in the second two lines of the poem offer Frost's belief in what others have said about destruction. Frost, or the narrator, has given him or herself to an unhealthy desire at one point or another and has a first-hand knowledge of how detrimental obsession can be.

'From what I've tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.'

Obsession is all consuming, like fire, which burns everything away until there is nothing left. Like fire, obsession reduces an individual's perspective to nothing but the object of their desire, and will essentially ruin a person when that object is gone or no longer available.

The Same Outcome

Frost's fifth line, 'But if it had to perish twice,' serves as a comparison between fire and ice or obsession and hatred. While they are different, the outcome is the same; destruction. The last lines of the poem indicate and equal but different end:

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