Fire and Ice by Robert Frost Guide
“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost is a compact poem about the end of the world. In the poem, the speaker says that some people believe the world will end in fire, and others say it will end in ice. The speaker of the poem thinks that if the world had to end twice, it could be destroyed by either desire (fire) or hatred (ice). The poem uses the phrases “hot as fire” and “cold as ice” to describe the two opposing theories. The poem also suggests that human emotions can be powerful enough to bring about the end of the world.
Central Idea of Fire and Ice
Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” is about the end of the world, with the speaker stating that it will be destroyed by fire or ice. However, one may argue that the poem’s core theme is that both fire and ice are harmful in their own ways. The basic premise of the poem is that only love, equality, mutual understanding, and compassion for all can contribute to the establishment of world peace. The poet suggests that both fire and ice are possible world-ending forces. While he discusses how fire symbolises desire and can therefore be a cause of the end of the world, he also uses ice to indicate that the coldness and indifference between people will also be sufficient to bring about the end of the world.
Summary of the Poem
Robert Frost wrote a poem titled “Fire And Ice.” Two prophecies on how the world will end are made in this poem by the poet. He gives two contradictory perspectives regarding the end of humanity and the world. These two potential causes of the end of the world are discussed by him. One such scenario is the world’s destruction by fire. When he contemplates the flaming flames of human appetites, this is the case. Consequently, the entire planet will be engulfed in flames as a result of these actions. The ice is the second possible cause of the end of the planet.
The poet has a deep belief that the hatred in people’s hearts would be enough to freeze the entire globe to death. Therefore, the fire of bad wants and the ice of cruel hatred are sufficient to destroy the planet.
The poet is very certain that humanity will perish one day. He is discussing the two distinct views surrounding the end of the planet. These are based on the opinions of the people. The poet declares his support for those who believe the world will end in fire. This is because he has witnessed the effect and consequence of unrestrained and endless cravings on human life. He concludes that the essence of human wicked passions is comparable to that of fire. Consequently, this fire may become a major factor in the destruction of humanity and the earth.
Alternatively, the second belief in this regard asserts that ice is also capable of destroying the world. Here, the poet relates the nature of ice to human hostility towards other humans. As extended exposure to ice can numb the body, so can prolonged exposure to hatred dull our mind and thinking. Consequently, it may render us indifferent and cruel. This cruelty against humanity will be a greater cause of the ruin of the world than the desire.
The speaker places the audience in the middle of a dispute between two distinct groups of individuals. One who believes the world will end in a blazing catastrophe and others who believe the planet will freeze to death. The poet may be referring to the literal end of the world. However, he is also discussing the ability of humans to destroy one another.
The poet enjoys the passion for emotions such as love and lust that he has taught to others. These will likely have the ability to transform the earth into a massive conflagration. However, he has also experienced the other extreme. This is about colder, more harmful emotions, such as hatred. It is a well-known fact that love receives all the attention while hatred is the silent killer. It may not be as effective as the fireball ending, but it will suffice.
Explanation of Fire and Ice
According to the poet, fire represents a burning desire for material things, while ice represents the coldness that develops in individuals due to their desires and materialistic lifestyle. He believes that both of these weapons are equally hazardous and will lead to the end of the world.
The rhyme system of this brief poem is aba abc bcb and it has nine lines. There are 3 sentences total. In the first sentence, the poet describes the long-standing dispute in society over what would ultimately destroy the earth.
In the second statement, he shifts the discourse symbolically. Now, fire and ice have a deeper and more profound significance. In the final, longest line, he provides his own opinions.
The poet opens the poem by recounting the well-known and time-honored dispute on the two things, one of which will end the planet. These are examples of fire and ice.
Some scientists believe that the annihilation of the world will be brought about by fire. The fire referred to here is the lave found in the centre of the earth. People think that one day the earth will explode, causing massive fire explosions that will consume the world and kill everything.
The alternative notion is that ice will kill the world. Now, ice can refer to several things (as I have read different interpretations of this word in various sites). First, ice likely refers to the melting of glaciers and the increasing sea level, which will cause everything to sink.
However, it does not appear that this is the exact meaning of what Frost is referring to. The other interpretation of ice is the entry of a meteor or any other object from space that will block the sun’s rays, resulting in an ice age that will destroy the world. Regardless of the definitions of fire and ice, the poet provides a common belief of his time.
The poet provides his own meaning of these two phrases in the next line. According to him, he has experienced desire, thus he believes individuals who favour fire are correct, and he supports their viewpoint.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree out of desire. It is desire that causes people to be selfish, materialistic, and dishonest.
It is the drive for power that has caused the worst wars, battles, and countless human and nonhuman casualties. Accordingly, the poet believes that the fire of desire will destroy the planet.
However, the poet asserts that if the Earth had been destroyed twice, ice would have contributed to its demise. Frost uses the term ice to allude to coldness in relation. With the advent of materialistic ideas, emotions and human warmth have disappeared. In the pursuit of worldly goods, people have forgotten about other people and begun to love material objects. Thus, according to the poet, the hatred that has resulted from want would have destroyed the earth twice over if it were necessary.
Observe how the poet has combined disparate elements. It is impossible for ice and fire to coexist. However, according to the poet, desire (fire) is what causes coolness (ice). Consequently, both will exist in the future to destroy the world.
Literary Devices in “Fire and Ice”
The poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost contains several literary devices in this poem. The literary devices used in the poem are given below:
1. Alliteration: Alliteration means the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /f/ in “I hold with those who favour fire”.
2. Assonance: Assonance means repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the long sound of /o/ in “I hold with those who favour fire”.
3. Imagery: Imagery means the use of words in such a way that paints images in the reader’s mind. It is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
“Some say the world will end in fire” and
“To say that for destruction ice is also great”.
4. Symbolism: Symbolism means the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. “Fire” is the symbol of desires and “Ice” symbolizes hatred.
Similarly, “green” and “gold” are symbols of beauty and happiness.
5. Anaphora: Anaphora means the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example,
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.”
6. Personification: Personification is to give human attributes to inanimate objects. In this poem, “Fire” and “Ice” are capable of destruction. Therefore, the poet personifies fire and ice by giving them a mind which is capable of destroying almost anything.
7. Enjambment: It means a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it moves over the next line. For example,
“From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire.”