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by Robert Frost

Appearance vs. Reality

Symbol Analysis

Many poets, Frost included, like to play with the differences between appearances and observable facts. At some point in you're life you've probably misunderstood something someone said and messed up because of it, right? Also, you've probably had a dream that seems so real that you wake up and have to figure out if it really happened or not. Poets like to be sneaky with what we assume to be facts – they often imagine how things could be different.

  • Line 9: The speaker calls the ice coating the trees enamel. Usually enamel refers to the glossy and glassy coating around pottery. Pottery is considered art, but are trees art? The poet has painted a pretty picture of the trees, but now the image "cracks and crazes." The scientific reality of the sun and wind has broken up the artwork.
  • Lines 10 and 11: The speaker compares the ice to crystal shells and enhances the image with descriptive language. The imagery of "[s]hattering and avalanching" ice is a vivid sight to imagine.
  • Line 12: This metaphor of cracking ice as shattering crystal is conceptually tied together with broken glass, because the two images are so similar. The need to sweep the heaps of glass away turns the metaphor into an extended metaphor by adding on new metaphors to the original.
  • Line 13: The extended metaphor reaches its conclusion with the shattering of the crystal dome that was once said to separate earth from heaven.
  • Line 15: The extended metaphor is paralleled with how the birches "seem not to break." Notice how appearances are getting tied up with imaginative language and metaphors.
  • Lines 19-20: The broken trees are compared to girls drying their hair in the sun. This simile shows how the imagination can carry the speaker and reader away.
  • Line 21: "Truth" breaks into the poem, but the speaker is probably being ironic. The truths we've come across aren't so matter of fact. Instead they are imaginative ideas inspired by the "facts" of nature.
  • Line 44: This simile compares life to an overgrown forest. It's hard to tell what direction you're going when you can't find a path and end up getting poked in the eye by a twig.

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