Robert Frost

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What is the "battle" in "Range-finding" by Robert Frost?

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The poet does not state explicitly what battle is being discussed in the poem. It is irrelevant. We know that Robert Frost's poem was written during World War I and can surmise that the poet alludes to a battle during this war. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of range-finding is the “determination of the range to a target by adjusting fire on it.” In other words, the title refers to a gunman’s testing the range of his or her rifle or gun by firing a test shot. Thus, on one level, the battle is an unnamed siege during World War I. On another level, it is the battle between mankind and nature.

In the test shot discussed in the poem, the bullet disturbs the tranquility of the natural elements in the field or range where the testing occurs. For example, “before it stained a single human breast,” the bullet tears a cobweb, which the poet compares to a diamond necklace because when the light shines through it, the thin filament looks like a prism. The test...

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