The Use of Imagery, Figurative Language and Sound in “Birches” by Robert Frost
Just like Robert Frost, everyone attaches memories to certain people, places and things throughout a lifetime, some memories that even allow a departure to a time that could be seen as much easier and more tranquil that current conditions. In Robert Frost’s poem, “Birches, ” Frost begins the poem by alluding his own memories that he has attached to trees with low hanging branches and his desire to once again climb these branches in order to escape his own earthly troubles. Not only does Frost use imagery, figurative language and sound to reiterate his strong appeal and appreciation for trees, but he also uses these elements to relieve him of the present and allow himself to escape his own reality, even if only for a while.
One important element that Frost applies throughout the poem is imagery. Frost uses the vivid images of the dangling tree branches to contrast the reality or his adult life with his escape to his childhood. Frost states, “Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells 10 shattering and avalanching on the snow crust — such heaps of broken glass to sweep away you’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen”. Here, Frost clearly displays that although he would like to believe that the branches are hanging low from boys swinging on them, just as he did as a child, he knows that the truth behind the low hanging braches is the intense weather that these trees encounter. This, in turn, represents the comparison of reality and the escape of reality, and also shows that although he would like to relive what was once an easier time as a child, he fully understands that he must live in the present.
Another important element that Frost subtly depicts is the use of figurative language to compare the physical tree to a ladder that leads to heaven and allows him to escape his own troublesome life on Earth. Frost first introduces this idea when he states “I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, and climb black branches up a snow white trunk toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, but dipped its top and set me down again”. Here, it is clear that the tree’s branches represent a way for him to depart from the fray of life and to ease his own thoughts and troubles because as a child this was the way to his own happiness. In addition, Frost uses the tree and its branches to relate it to a vehicle. Just as people use cars to get from one point to the next, the idea of swinging on the tree branches provides the narrator with a means to leave the earth, but only for the amount of time that he swings upwards, as it is clear that what goes up must come down. With that being said, Frost even goes to say that he has mastered how to not launch or land too soon which allows him to preserve the branch height and allow multiple swings or escapes, although it is only temporary.
Lastly, Frost uses powerful sounds devices and sound elements such as repetition and onomatopoeia. Although Frost uses repetition multiple times, it is most evident when he continually reiterates the “birches bend”, “the boys swinging bends them, ” and “swingers of birches”. Here, Frost reinforces his hope to return to his childhood in order to disregard his adult responsibilities and return to a time when things were easier and life was much more carefree, a time when all he worried about was finding a new tree to be able to swing from. In addition to repetition, Frost also uses onomatopoeia to contrast the delicate image of tree swinging as a child with the harsh reality of the “shattering and sharp clicks” of the branches or his own life as an adult. Just as Frost understands that he can reimagine the ease of childhood that he once experienced, it is only temporary and, in the end, he must live in the present.
Frost makes it very clear that although he understands that he must live in the present on Earth now, he often enjoys being able to escape his own realities at times to return to the exhilaration of climbing his father’s trees. This was a time when his only concern was being able to master the task of swinging from the trees without bending or stirring them too low to the ground, a time when life was much easier, and a time that made him the happiest. Frost ties these ideas in with his constant use of imagery, figurative language and sound devices to further illustrate his memories and his lost hope to return to his adolescence.
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Just like Robert Frost, everyone attaches memories to certain people, places and things throughout a lifetime, some memories that even allow a departure to a time that could be seen […]