Theme of Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Global warming: Frost’s theory about the destruction of earth by fire, if taken literally, bears many similarities with the currently prevalent theory about global warming. Environmentalists say that the earth is going through a process of heating because of which atmospheric temperatures are rising steadily every year. As a result of this rise in temperatures, weather conditions all over earth are changing like never before.
Heat waves are killing people in Europe and in Asia every year. Moreover, tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface are also moving rapidly and as a consequence, earthquakes are happening frequently. The recent earthquake in Nepal is an example of this. Lastly, the sea level is rising at an alarming rate due to the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps. Because of all these phenomena, the earth will soon be destroyed.
Ice age: Frost’s theory about the destruction of the earth by ice, if taken literally, bears many similarities with another theory that environmentalists are currently contemplating. This theory says that the earth will experience another ice age like the one that supposedly led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. All presently habitable lands will freeze over, and it will be too cold for human beings to survive. Not just man but almost every other species will also find this cold unbearable and will die out as a consequence.
Power of desire: Frost compares fire with human desire. That is perhaps why passion is often said to be fiery. The poet knows that love and desire can make a man take extreme measures. Man’s biggest desire is to possess – to possess wealth, or even to possess another person. This desire breeds covetousness, greed, envy and jealousy. Hence desire and all its allied emotions can make a man kill others to get what he wants. When in the hold of a fervent desire, man loses his capability for rational thinking. He reverts to his instinct and sometimes his instincts tell him that nothing is too heinous for the achievement of the purpose. That is why crimes of passion are easily relatable.
Power of hatred: Frost compares ice to hatred. That is perhaps why when we hate someone and we choose to ignore them, it is said that we are giving them the cold shoulder. However, this is not always the case. Instead of ignoring the person we hate, we can decide to take matters into our own hands. Thus hatred can also lead us to kill. Let us take the example of Hitler, who appeared a few decades after this poem was written. His hatred for the Jewish race made him commit mass murder.
Tone of Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
The tone of this poem is not adequate to convey the seriousness of its subject matter. The poet is talking about the apocalypse, but his tone is rather casual. It is as if the end of the world were a game that human beings indulge in for fun, and that they play with two playthings only – with fire and with ice.
Fire and ice are both dangerous in themselves, as the victims of incineration and frost bite will attest. But what lurks behind these elements is even more dangerous. Frost makes it seem that human beings love and hate without any care for the consequences of these strong emotions. However, the fact that these very emotions can lead to the extinction of the human species is something he only mentions in passing. The gravity of the situation are not revealed to any great extent by him.
What appeals to readers about Frost’s “Fire and Ice” is that its words are relatively simple, and they do not in any way seem menacing or threatening. Yet the message he gives us through these words is an important one. He tells us not to be overwhelmed by desire or by hatred, and instead to practice moderation in our involvement with others of our kind. The poet’s symbolism is very apt, his diction lucid, and his meaning profound.