In "After Apple-Picking", what is the physical and mental condition of the apple picker?

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troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Physically, the speaker is exhausted.  He says how tired he is several times.

"I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight."

He was holding up a sheet of ice that had formed on the trough, and as he dropped it he even said that he was almost asleep before he dropped it.

"But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell"

He even discusses the discomfort of his feet from being on the ladder so much.

"My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round."

The mental condition then is a little different.  The speaker could be dreaming when he speaks of almost falling asleep before the ice fell from his hands.  Was it a dream?  Or was his vision a little skewed from trying to see through the ice?  Was he hallucinating perhaps?  Then at the end, when he speaks of the hibernation of the woodchuck, does that mean his "long sleep" is really death?  We are unsure of what the speaker's intentions are, and we have to decide for ourselves if he is clear headed and is aware of his surroundings. He is worried about the apples being enough and all in good shape. He makes reference to that when he speaks of the barrel he didn't fill and the ones that will waste when thrown into the cider pile. So he shows some concern for a job well done, but the question lies in whether he is awake, dreaming, or losing it mentally.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The overriding sense of the physical condition of the apple-picker is one of fatigue.  It is the end of the day, and he is dropping off to sleep.  He says,

"...I am done with apple-picking now...essence of winter sleep is on the night...I am drowsing off".

The apple-picker appears to be in that nether-world between sleeping and waking, when the body is relaxing but the mind is still active.  He sees the world as somewhat distorted, like he perceived it that morning when he viewed it through "a pane of glass", a shard of ice "skimmed...from the drinking trough".  The apple-picker's body is tired, his "instep arch...keeps the ache", and he is "overtired", having "had too much of apple-picking".  He remembers all the work there had been to do that day,

"there were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall".

The apple-picker is spent, and in his exhausted state, he knows "what form (his) dreaming (is) about to take".  He will dream of apples;

"Magnified apples appear and disappear...stem end and blossom end...and every fleck of russet showing clear".

The apple-picker knows his sleep will be troubled, "whatever sleep it is".  He does not, at this point, know whether the sleep that is about to overcome him will be "just some human sleep"; his tiredness is such that it might require something much longer to revive him.