Birches Central Idea by Robert Frost: 2022

In this write-up, we are attempting to discuss the central idea of Birches, a poem written by Robert Frost. The poem is reminiscent of the poems of The Romantics. Nostalgic, dreamy, escapist- it has all the qualities of any other romantic poems. The poem opens by giving the possible explanations of the bending of the birch trees. Then the poet goes on to explain the beauty of the crystallised snows and ice-capped trees. The poet imagines a boy bending the branches while returning after herding his cows. The poet again mentions another boy bending the branches of trees in his father’s orchard. And this reminds the poet of his similar childhood experiences. He expresses his desire to go away from this world of responsibilities and return to his childhood once again so that he could start his life afresh from the beginning. He wants the fates to grant him a half wish as he doesn’t want to go away permanently from this world but to come back again because, after some considerations, he reconciles to the idea that earth is the best place for love.

The theme or the central idea of birches is the interrelationship between reality & imagination. The poet knows very well that the bending of birches can only be brought about by an ice storm. Yet, he prefers to think that it is done by some energetic prankster. The poem illustrates the poet’s ability to take what seems to be mundane activities of life & turn it into something that holds a deeper meaning. The poem revolves around a boy living in the countryside “whose only play was what he found himself,” in this case, riding birch branches. On a more deeper & figurative level, we also find the theme of life & death underlying in the poem. The poet writes a lot of meditations on life & death bringing forth some elements of spirituality. Moreover, Birches is a poem about Truth.

Truth is at times cold & uninviting. A pinch of fantasy makes the truth appealing & wondrous. Here we find the tendency of human escapism. Truth is personified as she breaks in “with all her matter of fact” when the narrator was enjoying the idea that some frolicking boy had caused the damage. The narrator cannot avoid returning to the “truth” & responsibilities of the ground. He wishes for a temporary escape either as an imaginative writer or a climber of birches. He is ready to face reality after his brief suspension of it. “Birches” captures the nostalgic memory of a countryside boy and fuses it into worldly wisdom of the grown up man he has become. Swinging in the birch trees is like swinging between the opposites: there are many contrasts inside the poem – earth & heaven, control & abandon, reality & imagination, escape & responsibility. Like all poems of Robert Frost it begins in wisdom and ends in delight. Hope you liked reading the central idea of Birches. 

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