Robert Frost’s Duality

Robert Frost, known by his full name Robert Lee Frost has an incredible family and life story. His unique development began with his father, William Prescott Frost Jr., an ardent Democrat and advocate for States’ Rights. An admirer of the Confederacy, William tried to enlist fighting for the South during the Civil War, but was denied because of his youth. Dismayed, William later moved to San Francisco, showing no hesitation in making his racist beliefs publicly known. Writing shocking pieces for the San Francisco Bulletin, an assassin unsuccessfully tried to kill him by shooting through a window. Running for election multiple times, Robert’s father dressed him up in political attire, having him campaign for him as a toddler. Looking a Frost now, recognized for his progressive ideology characterized by incredibly deep thinking, it is ironic to know that his father wanted nothing more than for the South to win the Civil War.

Even Frost’s demeanor seen through his writing is contrary to how he acted during his maturing years. As The New Yorker writes, “in his poetry, Frost emphasized the part of himself that remained aloof and on the outside. He was like “a very keen-witted boy, who would rather know how to sharpen an axehead than sharpen it, who would rather know where spruce gum comes from than go and gather it.” In real life, however, Frost had a certain “strength and vividness” to him. Acting on impulse rather than careful inspection of cause and effect, Frost could be seen doing reckless things, like spending a week outside, during the winter, without a tent or change of clothes.

The ironic duality of Robert Frost’s life is easily traced back to his origins. While his family supported the Southern Confederacy, Frost grew up to be a progressive thinker. Still, Frost did once say “a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his side in a quarrel.” His own quote describes himself, where many consider him to be liberal because of his love of nature, but he would describe himself as conservative. In poetry, Frost shows his reserved side, but those who know him describe him as energetic. Many revered poets exhibit this ironic dual nature; perhaps it is a necessary ingredient in a unique mind


Sources: (including photo), The New Yorker


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1 Response to Robert Frost’s Duality

  1. jacksonp11 says:

    Vaughn, I thought your descirption of Frost’s liberal duality was interesting. Before reading the post I had no knowledge of Frost’s father, and found it interesting that a man synonymous with New England could come from such racist roots. I also liked your strong clincher about the complexity of a unique mind. My question is whether or not any of Frost’s father’s Southern sympathy made its way into Frost’s early poems? If so, that would demonstrate an interesting shift in ideology throughout the poet’s career. To polish the post I would suggest cleaning up the quotation about the axe head, as I found it difficult to interpret in the given context. Other than that, it was a solid insight.

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