Has anyone considered the possibility that The Wood-pile is about the American Civil War, or wars in general?There seems to be a lot of imagery in the poem which raises this idea; which came about...

Has anyone considered the possibility that The Wood-pile is about the American Civil War, or wars in general?

There seems to be a lot of imagery in the poem which raises this idea; which came about following a Socratic Seminar with students.

Asked on by shaunap

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, I agree with #7! Well done you for being able to having your own views and preconceptions challenged by your students! Great job! I remember that happening to me over Tennyson's "The Eagle" and I am sad to say I was not as gracious and accepting. It was my first year of teaching though, and I would do it very differently now. However, to my mind, I agree with other editors. This poem for me is about effort and questioning whether the outcome is worth that effort.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

The important thing to note here is not whether we all agree on an interpretation of “The Wood Pile” by Robert Frost. What I find absolutely remarkable for your students is that they have a teacher who is willing enough to admit their interpretation is well supported and one worth considering. They helped you see something in a new way.

copelmat's profile pic

copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Interesting concept, although I don't think Frost was making an explicit connection to war. The context of war could certainly one application of the message of this poem, however. From understanding the poem's message in this context, students could be asked to generalize a broader interpretation of the poem's comment on the human condition. I think one could make a solid argument that in war and in the poem, humans often make preparations and plans that never reach fruition. Life intervenes and priorities and needs change; some work then seems to be futile in hindsight.

I've often found that students create very insightful contextual applications of a given poem's message in the course of a Socratic seminar. Helping them metaphorically step back and generalize their interpretation to the human condition often allows me to help build a bridge to more "traditional" interpretations of such poems. Nevertheless, your students deserve kudos for their insight and critical thought!

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I personally do not see this connection -- I suppose that the poem could be partly about war, but I don't see what would connect it to the Civil War in particular.

To me, the poem is about the idea that what people do is more or less futile.  We exert tremendous effort to get things done.  We follow whatever influence leads us along the paths of our lives.  But what do we accomplish?  Whoever stacked the cord of wood accomplished little.

I can see connecting this to war.  People put forth effort in war and all they accomplish is to destroy things.  But I think that is just one type of futile human endeavor.

So what imagery brings this to the mind of your class?

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I could see something like that as I have had several students make connections such as that. If there are quite a few links that can connect to that, then possibly there might be soemthing there. To absolutely rule it out; I can't say that.

shaunap's profile pic

shaunap | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I personally do not see this connection -- I suppose that the poem could be partly about war, but I don't see what would connect it to the Civil War in particular.

To me, the poem is about the idea that what people do is more or less futile.  We exert tremendous effort to get things done.  We follow whatever influence leads us along the paths of our lives.  But what do we accomplish?  Whoever stacked the cord of wood accomplished little.

I can see connecting this to war.  People put forth effort in war and all they accomplish is to destroy things.  But I think that is just one type of futile human endeavor.

So what imagery brings this to the mind of your class?

It was first raised through the image of the bird and the white feather. After that students began to see more imagery leading them to believe there was a link with war - the regimented lines of trees, being far from home, the bird referred to as making its 'last stand', the time elapsed since the wood-pile was constructed and the 'slow smokeless burning of decay'.

I have to admit, it was not a reading I had considered before the session but there did seem to be evidence to support such an interpretation.

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