A Hundred Collars by Robert Frost is about a man who has to spend the night in a room with a stranger. It deals with the feelings of fear the man has on being stranded in a sleepy town and having to share a room with a man.
This man, a Doctor named Magoon, was on his way to Lancaster, his hometown when he was stranded at Woodswille Junction on account of missing his train. He tries to find a room to spend a night in the only hotel in the area but finds no vacancy. The hotel clerk gives him an option of sharing a room with another man. Magoon takes him up on his offer even though he sees another person who didn’t agree to the clerk’s option for fear of being robbed. Magoon’s fear is stoked further when he sees the “brute” of his companion of the night, a person who wore a size 18 shirt as opposed to Dr. Magoon’s size 14. Magoon ntroduces himself and tries to avoid any contact with the other man. The other man, Lafe notices how afraid and untrusting Dr Magoon was of Lafe and offers to have a “show of evidence of good faith”. He puts his money on the counterpane between the two men. This act calms the nerves of the Doctor and the two men lapse into conversation. Lafe talks of his work as a collector, driving around the country collecting money, in the process finding out the public sentiment regarding various topics. He also talks of himself being a Democrat and his employer being a Republican. Finally, as Lafe takes the Doctor’s leave, he offers to send Magoon all of Lafe’s size 14 collars which don’t fit him anymore, which Magoon declines to accept.
A Hundred Collars by Robert Frost was part of his set of poems published in “North of Boston”, a set of poems about New England which ironically Frost wrote while living in London. A unique feature about A Hundred Collars is it’s written in the form of a flowing conversation between two individuals and as such lacks a set rhyme scheme though stanzas have their own internal rhyme scheme.
The main theme of A Hundred Collars is one of fear. However, A Hundred Collars can also be analysed with a political undertone. It is the unknown that scares us. Doctor Magoon is unable to get to Lancaster as he misses his train and has to spend the night sharing his room with an intimidating man. He’s scared for his life as well as his belongings.
Magoon is stranded in the small town and has to share his room with the physically intimidating Lafe. The initial suspicion and contempt that Magoon has for Lafe can be seen in the way Magoon doesn’t even want Lafe to come touch him. In my opinion, Magoon displays a typical human trait of judging someone on the surface and basing an opinion of them based on this judgement. Here Magoon judges Lafe on the basis of his intimidating physique and develops an opinion that Lafe is a dangerous man who wants to hate Magoon. This opinion couldn’t be farther from the truth as Lafe turns out to be an extremely amicable man who was very accommodating towards Dr. Magoon and even offers to give him his collection of collars which are too small for Lafe. They even share the same political ideologies.
There is also a political undertone to this poem. The United States has two major political parties whose supporters are called Democrats and Republicans respectively. In my opinion, Frost tries to show how politics and support towards a political party can create a divide between workers and friends, as in the case of Lafe and his employer, and bring people together, as in the case of Dr. Magoon and Lafe.
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