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Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Choices Theme

"Fire and Ice" is set up as a choice between fire and ice. Which force will bring about the end of the world? Based on the wisdom gained from his experience, the speaker decides that desire and the other forces of "fire" would probably bring about the destruction of the world first. "Fire," after all, is the realm of the passions, which are spontaneous and impulsive. But the cool deliberation of "ice" would be no less effective at bringing about destruction. The speaker makes a choice but avoids choosing one over the other. How'd he do that?!

Questions About Choices

  1. Does the speaker make a choice between fire and ice, or does he fudge the debate?
  2. Why does he imagine that the world could "perish twice"? Is this idea just a kind of rhetorical trick so he can give ice its due?
  3. Does the speaker take a stand as to whether fire or ice is more powerful? Why would fire destroy the world the "first" time?
  4. What do the last two lines suggest about the choice between fire and ice? Does it make a difference which one actually destroys the world, if they are both capable of it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The end of the poem reveals that the question of whether fire or ice will destroy the world is a flawed and ineffective way of thinking about these two elemental forces.

Frost reinforces a false and overly simplified dichotomy by refusing to consider that fire and ice can mix.

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