Study Guide

Fire and Ice Fear

By Robert Frost

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"Fire and Ice" is notable for the lack of fear on the part of the speaker, who responds to the prospect of the end of the world with few traces of emotion or worry. He takes it all in stride. There is something uncomfortable and even frightening about a guy who can analyze the pivotal moment in human history like a lawyer or judge weighing two arguments. Nonetheless, from his personal knowledge of desire and hate, we know the speaker is not just naïve. Maybe he knows "fire and ice" so well that he has moved beyond fear to resignation. Or maybe the fear is still lurking beneath the surface…

Questions About Fear

  1. Do you think the speaker is fearful at all about the end of the world? Do you think his attitude is representative of modern or contemporary life?
  2. Why does he care about what will end the world in the first place?
  3. Is the speaker simply resigned to the destructive power of desire and hate, or is the poem meant to be a warning call?
  4. What other emotions would you put under the headings of either "fire" or "ice"?

Chew on This

The speaker's resigned attitude expresses the powerlessness of a modern humanity that has developed the power to destroy itself for the first time in history.

Frost's poem serves as a warning that advances in knowledge and science will not necessarily lead to peace and harmony.

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