Study Guide

After Apple-Picking Dissatisfaction

By Robert Frost


I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight (line 9)

You could make a pretty good case that all of the weird and ambivalent imagery in the poem stems from the speaker's vision of the world through a sheet of glass earlier that morning. The morning is the earliest time period that he revisits before falling asleep, and you might say he has been in a funk ever since. "Strangeness" is not necessarily a bad thing, but the vision seems to have disturbed his day in some fashion.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell, (lines 13-15)

A large part of the speaker's dissatisfaction stems (pun!) from the fact that he has been anxiously trying to avoid dropping apples all day long. These lines are a mix of fantasy and memory, and his mind cuts away from the moment when the ice falls, as if he were afraid of reliving it. Falling ice is not particularly scary – unless you're under a glacier – but the symbolic act of falling can be very frightening from a psychological point of view.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired. (lines 24-29)

The speaker is also dissatisfied for the simple reason that he has grown bored of the picking process. It sounds nice in theory but, in practice, picking apples is extremely repetitive and monotonous. The endless "rumbling" of the cellar bin highlights the ceaseless activity of the orchard.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. (lines 30-31)

The root of the speaker's anxiety about falling doesn't become clear until near the end of the poem, when he reveals that he has been trying not to let apples fall and become worthless. What is the effect of Frost's decision to delay the telling of this small but very important detail? These lines make a careful reader want to go back and look at lines 13-16.

Or just some human sleep. (line 42)

Is the speaker disappointed that he will not be hibernating like the woodchuck? Or is he maybe relieved that he doesn't have to embark on the "long sleep," i.e., death? Finally, why would he think that he would have any kind of sleep besides normal, "human sleep"? Remember that his day has been filled with "strangeness," and this funny mood might lead him to entertain strange new possibilities.