Love And A Question Analysis

What is the symbolism and theme in the poem "Love and A Question"?

I'm working on a project for English and really need help with this.

Asked on by shyt2014

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Frost's poems are often ambiguous and therefore lend themselves to a variety of interpretations.  "Love and a Question" is no exception.  The basic situation involves a stranger who approaches the house of a bridegroom and bride.  This young couple might be newlyweds or about to be married on this evening.  The situation is reminiscent of Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in which the mariner approaches a young bridegroom who is about to get married.  In this ballad, the joyful occasion of a wedding is interrupted by the old man who wants to tell his story of crime, penance, and redemption, and when he finishes his tale, the bridegroom is a wiser man.

In Frost's poem, we have a similar contrast young and old; cheerful and sorrowful. The young bridegroom steps out of his lighted and warm house, where inside is a young bride full of desire for him.  The stranger is an older man, for he carries a "green-white stick," and is desperate for shelter.

The bridegroom must decide whether or not to welcome this stranger into his house.  He looks outside to see if the night weather warrants taking the stranger into his house.  It is an autumn night and winter is in the air.  The bridegroom cannot predict the harshness of the weather:  "Stranger, I wish I knew."  But, as typical of Frost, the weather most likely symbolizes much more that a literal autumn night.  Perhaps the bridegroom is also studying the sky to see his own future.  What changes will his life experience as the seasons change?  It is a question no one knows the answer to.

He looks inside--the wife or bride at the hearth is in his present.  Is the stranger's life his future?  He hopes her heart will remain as it is "in a case of gold/And pinned with a silver pin."

Another question arises. The bridegroom struggles between his duty to a fellow human being and his desire not to mar the mood of the bridal house.  He feels that he should give the stranger shelter, food, and money.  But he fears that by letting the stranger into his house, he will be "harboring woe."  At the end of the poem, this question is unanswered.  The bridegroom "wished he knew" what he should do.

This decision represents a conflict between duty and desire as well as compassion and selfishness.  But it also represents a clinging to the present and a fear of change.  One's life can be as unpredictable as the weather, but changes are as inevitable as the seasons.  So, perhaps the larger question here is what kind of life is in store for the bridegroom.  Could his fate be that of the stranger?

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florencey | eNotes Newbie

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This poem is about love and the things that may come against it.  The stranger, as Frost poems normally are represented in, is symbolic.  Symbolic of the life or lives the bridegroom a/or bride have left or are about to leave behind.   The bridegroom is happy to have such a beautiful bride, beautiful life that wants nothing but him to make her happy.  As he looks down the road the stranger has travelled he recognizes it deeply.  It is in the evening, the eve of his wedding or the wedding night.  He is having second thoughts maybe or sometimes even though a person has the world, something not so wonderful still eerily haunts us.  It's why we walk away from a past yet we can't help but look back.  All the bridegroom has left is a few scraps and a prayer because he, though looking back doesn't regret his choice to walk away and he prays because he feels blessed that being not rich, he can appreciate his place in life.  The rich don't know trial and tribulations such as he has met with and so they can't really appreciate the rewards he has come to know.  By being rich, would he have found such a wonderful bride!  With this he feels he is richer than rich, and blessed by God's grace.  He prays that others in a dark, weary life will come to know the joy he has and that to be rich is not with money.  He has found that true happiness is priceless and has little left to give to a past he has walked away from.  

He looks back, and within is his bride standing over an open flame with warm, rosy cheeks.  Then he looks back at his path that beckons him and feels it is asking him to make a choice.  The stranger speaks more with his eyes because it doesn't have a voice.  It's a thought, a feeling, a remembrance or a regret that is felt more than seen.

The green-white stick is one of the three vivid things in this poem besides the road, the bride's rosy cheeks.  So we know of the latter two, but what of the stick.  I picture the stick as one that was laying on the forest floor, probably fallen from a birch tree and a bit mossy.  People pick up and carry sticks such as these when on a long journey.  They help keep one steady on long walks and move small obstacles that may hinder one on their path.  So that is fitting to my interpretation. The Autumn feels winterish, maybe the wedding is in this season.

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