Setting of the poem Fire and Ice
This poem is set in the time of apocalypse or the end of the world. The poet here speculates on what might cause such an event to happen. However, the sense of immediacy in the poem leads readers to believe that the poet sees the apocalypse looming on the horizon. That is to say, the poet believes the world will end very soon. That is perhaps why it does not really matter whether it is fire or it is ice that ultimately destroys it.
Fire and Ice by Robert Frost Critical Analysis
Though written in the 1920s, “Fire and Ice” has never had as much relevance as it does now in the 21st century. It is not clear whether frost was of an ecologically-aware bent of mind, but his present readers certainly are. Our environment is slowly becoming harsh and may soon turn inhabitable, as we are being told over and over again by environmentalist crusaders. Unless mankind can change his ways and stop exploiting the resources that the earth provides us with, our future generations will surely perish without a trace. However, there are two theories regarding the future of the earth and its decline towards apocalypse. The more publicized theory is the one about global warming, which we can liken to the poet’s theory about the destruction of earth by fire.
The threat of global warming says that the temperature of the earth is rising steadily every year and it is leading to the melting of glaciers and ice caps. As a result of this, weather patterns all over the world are undergoing massive changes, tectonic plates are shifting to cause earthquakes and land masses are slowly becoming submerged under the oceans. This will ultimately lead to loss of habitat for all the earthly species and lead to the end of the world as we know it. The second theory that environmentalists tell us about is that of an approaching ice age, which we can liken to Frost’s theory about the destruction of earth by ice.
This theory states that the earth will undergo an ice age like the one it had experienced during the reign if the dinosaurs and before the appearance of the human species. As a result of this ice age, every place on earth will become too cold to sustain life and therefore, all species of the earth will be wiped out. We cannot say for sure that Frost had foreseen both these eventualities for the apocalypse, but it seems that he had. More importantly, as is Frost’s practice, he has used simple words to disguise a deeper meaning here. If fire is passion and ice is hatred, then frost is saying that the earth will be torn apart by disproportionate human emotions before fire or ice is ever a serious threat to the planet.
He knows the common saying that all is fair in love and war, and so he knows that human beings can be consumed by both love and hatred. As a result of wanting to protect your loved ones, you would be willing to kill anyone who tries to harm them. Similarly, if you hate someone enough that it becomes an obsession, you would be willing to kill them as well. If every human being kills for love as well as for hatred, then the entire species will die out soon. This is what the poet is warning his readers against.
Poetic Devices in Fire and Ice
The rhyme scheme of this poem is as follows – ABA ABC BCB. This is very similar to the three line units one finds in terza rima, the rhyme scheme invented by Dante.
Anaphora: The device of anaphora consists in the repetition of one word or a set of words at the beginning of every line in a sequence of lines. In this poem, the poet uses the device of anaphora in lines 1 and 2, both of which start with the same set of words “Some say…”.
No other rhetorical devices are used by Frost in this poem. However, this does not take away from his poetic craft in any way. In fact, the absence of rhetorical devices also fits perfectly into Frost’s style of writing – direct and uncomplicated on the surface, yet profound once you start to read between the lines.
Central Idea of the poem Fire and Ice
The poet is writing about how apocalypse may come about. He has heard that it will either be caused by fire or by ice. He strongly believes that it is the former that will bring about the end of the earth. Fire for him symbolizes desire. Desire is dangerous for it can lead a man to kill others in order to get what he wants. However, the poet also does not entirely discount the possibility of apocalypse through ice either. He thinks that it may cause a second destruction of the earth. He aligns ice with hatred, and says that both are also adequate to cause the extinction of the human species.