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Explain lines 12-14 of Frost's "The Silken Tent" in the context of this unit’s theme.

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jmorris9985 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 17, 2012 at 2:19 AM via web

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Explain lines 12-14 of Frost's "The Silken Tent" in the context of this unit’s theme.

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etude1903 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 17, 2012 at 5:15 AM (Answer #1)

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Robert Frost's "The Silken Tent" is a wonderful sonnet in which he compares a woman to a silken tent. Lines 12-14 read as follows:

And only by one's going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.       

Earlier in the poem Frost refers to tent cords as the "ties of love and thought." And it suggests that we are only rarely made aware of "capriciousness." Impulsively and unpredictability of our "bondage" is what ties together man and woman. In the "air" of summer, which is sometimes still, we can feel the "slightly taught[ness]" of a woman who can captivate men and cause them to lapse into bondage. Who and what we are depends largely on our relationships, especially in the relationship between a man and a woman. It is these relationships that give people their identities, as singular entities, Frost suggests, we are nothing.

Relationships will always contribute to our identities rather than be detrimental in any way. The use of "midday" and "summer" from line 2 contributes the idea that this woman is mature and not in any way an adolescent reinforcing the hold that a woman can have over a man but only when in a relationship in which it is positive and honest, just as a tent provides protection and safety from the harsh elements of the environment. The "sweetness" and "firmness of soul" from line 7 also complements that she is a woman who is no longer "girly" or girlish in any way.

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