Study Guide

Fire and Ice Fear

By Robert Frost

Fear

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice. (lines 1-2)

The poem abstracts itself from any specific vision of the end of the world.

But if it had to perish twice, (line 5)

Really? The world has to end twice so we can test out the fire vs. ice hypothesis? In all seriousness, the speaker is dripping with irony here. He takes a terrifying topic and treats it like a rational thought experiment.

I think I know enough of hate (line 6)

Maybe the speaker's lack of fear has to do with his experience in matters of desire and hate. He has seen enough destruction in the world – or at least destructive emotions – to not be afraid of it.

Is also great (line 8)

Here "great" means "huge," "pervasive," and "powerful," not, "fantastic." Still, "great" is an interesting word because it has no negative connotations – another sign of the absence of fear in the poem.

And would suffice. (line 9)

This ending is like something you might hear from an exterminator who thinks that the way to solve your pest problem is by blowing up the house. That's called ironic understatement, folks.