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Fire & Ice

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Fire and Ice

Will the world ever come to an end? And if so, should it end in fire or in ice? These two core questions are raised while reading Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice”. But just for a moment, if we were to take the physical world out of context and replace it with those who live in it, then maybe there is something more to it. Maybe the physical world will not end in such tragic ways, but perhaps society will. These two powerful elements, fire and ice, that are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum, somehow bring out a thought-provoking process about the deterioration of society.
The two elements that Frost incorporates into his poem are very vital to its analysis. Fire can symbolize many things negatively as well as positively. The negative affiliations with fire include chaos, war, ruin, and destruction. Few years prior to the American Revolution, there was a chaotic clashing between American colonists and the British because of heavily imposed taxes, thus, portraying an unorganized and hostile society. Plenty of wars have occurred on this earth because of societies. Ruin and destruction also exemplify the notion of this idea. After the tragic 9/11 incident in the United States, many Americans developed such a hatred for the Muslim people (and vice versa) to the point where racism was deemed acceptable. The actions were responsible in the production of one society against another leaving practically no lee-way for peace.
Although these characteristics seem very likely, others believe that fire can also act as a cleanser and purifier; that fire banishes darkness and sometimes people speak of love as an eternal flame. If this is the case, then we can connect it to the way in which society behaves. Passion and determination are key characteristics to have in order to obtain certain desires. However, isn’t it true that sometimes to acquire such desires people are willing to do whatever it takes including diminishing the chances for others? This fiery and ambitious drive may in fact lead to the harming of others which means that even fire’s positive affiliations can lead to negative circumstances.
Ice on the other hand doesn’t seem to be affiliated with positive attributes that much, mostly negative ones. Ice can be associated with hatred, lack of warmth, oppression, and timelessness. The fact that it takes longer for someone to freeze to death rather than burn to death ironically and inadvertently makes ice a less favorable form of decay. When Hitler’s hatred for the Jewish race was interposed upon his followers, two different societies suffered; that of the Jewish population and even of the German nation. Restriction of rights and the oppression of woman in certain Middle Eastern countries cause an unbalance within that society making it unfair to its inhabitants.
One can argue of course that ice as a symbol of timelessness is a positive thing expanding on the idea that the world (in this case society) is endless and will never come to a stop. But if that is the case, then again, why would anyone want it to exist forever if it has such a negative history? The suffering of groups of people will never cease. I am not saying that the end of societies is a good thing. I am just implying that the end of the corruption and evilness of societies is a good thing. But because of its long lasting icy timelessness, corruption and deterioration will just simply continue.
A work of anything whether it is a painting, a poem, or a story can also be analyzed through the time period in which it was written. Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” was written in 1920, the same year in which Prohibition, the eighteenth amendment, was passed under the United States Constitution. Even though the 1920’s was referred to as the roaring twenties because of new popular fads and trends that were developing, the Prohibition law resulted in many illegal acts and crimes throughout cities. Bootleggers started obtaining and selling alcohol illegally, secret underground bars (speakeasies) were formed, and all of that resulted in increased crime rates and violence throughout the neighborhoods. This image of corruption within a society could have affected the message of this poem. Politically, during the 1920’s, communism was starting to emerge in several nations. This could have also played into effect of the poem’s message in the sense that communism was forced upon its society and the U.S was strictly against it.
There are a lot of mysteries within the lines of the poem; ones that leave audience especially perplexed. “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice” (Lines 1-2). Either way, one or the other will occur. It seems as though there is no way out. It is also questionable as to why Frost offers the lines “but if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction, ice is also great” (Lines 5-8) to us. Within those lines there is an implication that after the destruction or deterioration of something, it will have a second chance in forming again but will ultimately fail nevertheless. Consequently, it appears that society is doomed to be damned.
But why does it seem that society is so easily susceptible to deficiency? According to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, humans are born with first sin. Because Eve bit the apple, with a great desire to get a taste of the forbidden world, she committed a sin and therefore passed it on to all of her descendants. This example draws out how even positive characteristics of fire as mentioned earlier result in negative outcomes. All humans desire something and depending on how strong this desire is, people can go to great lengths to achieve it whether it is good or bad.
Conclusively, society will eventually perish in no other way except with a sense of pessimistic continuity. It’s interesting though, to see why Frost would prefer to “hold with those who favor fire” (Line 4). Perhaps he sees that if the world or society should end, at least it should end with people doing things out of passion and desire rather than it ending because of people doing things out of hate. He prefers that people die without any darkness in their hearts. It can also be proposed that if the world is consumed by fire then in the aftermath there will only be light for fire has the potential to illuminate even the darkest of places. But if the world is consumed by ice, then there will only be darkness because of the dark nature inside people’s hearts.

Works Cited

"Fire and Ice by Robert Frost." PoemHunter.Com - Thousands of Poems and Poets.. Poetry Search Engine. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://poemhunter.com/poem/fire-and-ice>.

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