Thinking about the poem "Fire and Ice," would you rather burn or freeze to death?  Why?  Has the idea of this question become desensitized over the past one hundred years, especially in contemporary society?

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The whole point of the poem is to present this as an ultimately meaningless choice. Whether the world comes to grief by fire or ice should not really concern us in the slightest; whatever happens will happen, and there's absolutely nothing that anyone can do about it. So yes, I think one could say that most people have indeed become desensitized to the idea.

Having said that, most people would probably choose to freeze to death, as it's much more difficult to imagine, whereas death by fire is so much more common, and so we're acutely aware of just how much pain and suffering it involves. We're also aware of the damage caused by the metaphorical fire of passionate desire and other intense emotions, to which Frost alludes in the poem. Being emotionally cold doesn't have quite the same sting to it. So it's perfectly understandable that, given the choice, most of us would choose to exit this world looking like a large popsicle.

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If some comic book villain were to offer you the choice of freezing or burning to death, one should choose freezing, as it is probably the less painful of the two choices. However, if you are studying the poem "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost, you are not reading a comic book or watching a simplistic movie, and thus the choices on offer have nothing to do with the relative physical discomfort involved in two ways of dying.

The poem has to do with relationships, and the extremes of "burning" with lust, represented by Frost as death by fire or living with hatred, a colder emotion. Both extremes of emotion can be painful. What Frost is suggesting in the poem, though, is not that one should choose either one extreme or the other, but rather he is suggesting that emotional extremes in general are a bad thing, by their nature disruptive and painful, tearing apart individuals and nations. Thus just as physical comfort requires a moderate temperature, somewhere between that of fire and ice, so too emotional happiness requires moderation, neither fire nor ice. 

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