Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

INTRODUCTION

Robert Frost’s poem ‘Fire and Ice’ is about the end of the world. The poem is centred on the idea that human emotions are detrimental. Fire represents passion and desire, whereas ice represents hatred. Both emotions are harmful and have the potential to end the planet.

The poem communicates the fundamental thought that the world will end in one of two ways: ice or fire. Both components are compared to self-destructive human emotions: hatred and desire. The poem, in a very beautiful way, underpins the notion that we let our emotions govern us, and if we don’t control them, they will inevitably ruin everything around us. Similarly, he believes that fire and ice are equally capable of bringing the world to a catastrophic end.

Key points

The poem has been written symbolically.
• The poet says that there are mainly two opinions about the end of this world, one by fire and another by ice.
• The symbols-‘Fire’ and ‘Ice’ have been used for human emotions like desire and hatred respectively.
•As fire can spread very fast and cause a great destruction in no time likewise our desires may also prove very destructive if they go out of control.
• Hatred causes slow destruction like ice but it is also very harmful.

Short Summary of Fire and Ice

Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” is a powerful symbolic poem in which fire represents desire and ice represents hatred. He employed the concept of two groups, each of which having its own probable reason for the end of the world. One believes that fire alone can destroy all forms of life on Earth, while the other believes that if ice forms on the Earth’s surface as a result of very cold temperatures, it will lead to the end of the world. Desire and hatred are both compared to self-destructive human emotions. The poet originally believes that he has been extremely closely associated with “fiery desires,” which he believes are capable of driving human beings to the brink of ruin. As a result, he regards fire as more capable of annihilation. But then he realises that “icy hatred” is just as capable of destroying humans, albeit more slowly and steadily. As a result, if the Earth were to end twice, ice would be equally as good as fire. If fire causes fast destruction, ice causes silent damage. Similarly, if fire is pure emotion, ice is pure logic. Thus, the poem aesthetically underpins the notion that we allow our emotions govern us and that if we don’t control them, they will undoubtedly bring us all to verge of chaos.

READ ALSO:  Critical Appreciation and Theme of After Blenheim

Detailed Summary of Fire and Ice

‘Fire And Ice’ is a short poem by Robert Frost. In this poem, the poet refers to two predictions of how the world will end. He presents two opposite views about the end of humanity and the world. He discusses these two possibilities which will be the reason for the end of the world. One such possibility is the world ending in flames of fire. It is so, because when he ponders over the burning flames of desires of people. These will definitely hurl the world into another nuclear war, and hence it will burn up the entire world in flames. The second possibility for the end of the world is due to the ice.


The poet has a strong feeling that people have so much hatred in their hearts against each other that it will be sufficient to freeze the entire planet towards death. So, the fire due to evil desires and ice of wicked hatred are the two opposite opinions enough to destroy the world.


The poet is very much sure of the destruction of humanity on someday. He is talking about the two different beliefs regarding the end of this world. These are on the basis of the sayings of the people. The poet says that he is in favour of those people who say this world will end in fire. This is because he has seen the effect and result of uncontrolled and unending desires over the life of human beings. He finds that human evil desires are similar to the fire in its nature. So this fire may become a big reason to destroy humankind and this world too.


On the other hand, the second belief in this regard says that ice is also sufficient for destroying this world. Here the poet compares the nature of ice with hatred feelings of humans with the other humans. As ice can make the body numb with its prolonged contact, similarly hatred can also give the numbness to our mind and thoughts. And hence it can make us insensitive and cruel. Such cruelty towards humanity will be more responsible for the destruction of the world compared to the desire.


The speaker brings us all into the middle of the argument between two different categories of the people. One who thinks that the world will come to a fiery end and other people who think the world will freeze resulting to the end. Poet is possibly talking about the literal end of the world. But he is also talking about the power that human beings have to destroy each other.
The poet experiences the romantic desire that he has taught the passion for emotions like love and lust. These will probably have the power to turn the earth into a big fireball. But he has also experienced the other extreme side. This is about colder emotions like hate which have great destructive power. It is a common fact that love gets all the publicity, whereas hate is the silent killer. It may not have the same effect as the fireball ending, but it will do the trick.

Explanation of the Poem

“Some say the world will end in fire 
Some say in ice.
From what I tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire”


In these lines, the poet discusses about the possibilities by which the world will come to an end. One such possibility is the world ending in flames of fire. The poet compares fire with human passion and desire. He also says that he is quite familiar with this concept of desire.

He also knows about the capability of desire which can be produced in human beings. The poet frankly confesses that he agrees with those who believe that the world will be burnt to ash. He brings about the idea that human beings let their emotions rule them and the consequence of unmonitored longing is chaos. 

“But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate 
To say that for destruction ice 
Is also great
And would suffice


In these lines, the poet waves off the first option of fire and says that if the world has to expire twice, ice would be equally competent in ending it. He brings about a contrast between ‘ice’ and ‘hatred’. He says that hatred is also an emotion he is familiar with and that he knows what kind of danger can arise from hatred. Though slow and steady, it has the same effect that desire has on us.

So if given an option between fire and ice, ice would be just as destructive as fire to destroy the world.

Questions and Answers



Q. 1. For Frost, what do “fire” and “ice” stand for?
Here are some ideas:
Greed
• Avarice
• Cruelty
• Lust
Conflict
• Fury
• Intolerance
Ans. According to Frost, ’fire’ stands for greed, conflict, fury, cruelty, lust and avarice whereas ‘Ice’ stands for insensitivity, coldness, intolerance, indifference, rigidity and hatred.

Q. 2. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?
How does it help in bringing out the contrasting ideas in the poem?
Ans. The rhyme of the poem is “aba abc bcb”. The poet has used rhyming beautifully to bring about contrasting ideas in the poem. He has used the ideas of two groups who believe that the world would come to a catastrophic end either as a result of fire or ice. Simultaneously he portrays these two essential components.

READ ALSO:  Song of the Old Mother by WB Yeats - Summary and Analysis


Q. 3. How does it help in bringing out the contrasting ideas in the poem?
Ans. The rhyme of the poem is “aba abc bcb”. The poet has used the rhyming beautifully to bring about contrasting ideas in the poem, he has used the ideas of two groups who believe that the world would come to a catastrophic end either as a result of fire or ice. Simultaneously, he portrays these two essential components as features of destructive human emotions: desire and hatred. Just like fiery desires and icy hatred can cause damage to an individual in an irreparable manner, fire and ice can lead the world at the verge of chaos.

Q. 4. There are many ideas about how the world will ‘end’. Do you think the world will end someday? Have you ever thought what would happen if the sun got so hot that it ‘burst’, or grew colder and colder?
Ans. Yes, I believe that this world will end some but when nobody knows.
about the sun gets hot or it gets colder in both the situations end of this world is sure.

Short questions and answers


Q. 1. What are the two opinions discussed in the poem about the end of this world?
Ans. The two opinions are that this world will end either in fire or in ice.

Q. 2. What does fire stand for in the poem?
Ans. Fire stands for desire as it spreads very fast if remains uncontrolled.

Q. 3. What does ice stand for in the poem?
Ans. Ice stands for hatred as both are same in nature, they make us insensitive and rigid.



Fire and ice – Literary Devices

1. Alliterationalliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound at the start of two or more closely placed words.
Examples- The sound of “F” in “Favour Fire”, “W” in “World Will”

2. Imagery– Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Example- “some say the world will end in fires”
To say that for destruction ice is also great”

3. Personification- Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. In this poem, “Fire” and “Ice” are capable of destruction. Thus, the poet personifies fire and ice by giving them the mind and power to destroy anything.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

x