Describe the imagery in "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

According to astronomer Harrow Shapely, the poem Fire and Ice was created due to a conversation he had with Robert Frost. The topic of the end of the world came up and Shapely told Frost that Earth would be destroyed one of two ways: 1) The sun would explode and roast the earth or 2) Earth would be somehow saved from the destruction of the sun, but it would freeze due to the lack of heat and light provided by the sun. A second theory about the inspiration of the poem is that Dante’s Inferno inspired Frost. According to several historians, he wrote the poem after reading the section about how traitors are frozen in ice as hell burns around them.  

The imagery in the poem surrounds the tactile feelings attributed to the heat and the cold. Fire gives heat. A little heat is pleasing and comfortable, but too much fire results in pain and death. Likewise, the cool nature of ice can be good in moderation by soothing a sore muscle or cooling off the body on a hot day, but too much and the appendages are destroyed through frostbite. Fire and Ice are also great forces in nature for change. Fire can destroy forests that have stood for thousands of years in a matter of hours and Ice can rip apart mountains by seeping in as water and expanding as ice.

Using this imagery, Frost alludes that the human emotion of desire is much like fire.  Like fire, desire feels good.  However, desire like fire, if allowed to run out of control is a destructive force.  Likewise, the imagery of ice in connection to hate- hate seeps in and expands.  Hate's destructive nature rips apart lives and people by seeping in and expanding until it breaks bonds that were once strong.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This typically simplistic poem by Frost, like so many of his poetic works, has much depth to it as we begin to probe its meaning and the ideas behind it. When we think of imagery we think about the way in which authors create verbal pictures of what they are trying to describe through their words, normally by appealing to the five senses. This poem is built around two implied metaphors that relates fire to desire and ice to hatred, and explores the similiarities beween them.

Note the strong visual element in "Fire and Ice." We are presented with very strong images pertaining to both of these elemental states. Note the following example:

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favour fire.

The idea of "fire" presents both an image that appeals to our sense of sight, but also our sense of feeling, too. Likewise, note the way that the speaker has "tasted" desire, another sense. The images in this poem therefore present us with strong, vibrant pictures that appeal to our senses and help us to imagine what the author is describing.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial