What are some literary devices employed in the poem "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost?

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corinnedolci eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though short, "Fire and Ice" contains a multitude of literary devices. Seemingly simple and un-intimidating to the average reader, they are indicative of Robert Frost's writing style. Frost is celebrated for imbuing everyday scenes and language from New England with the universal energy (or "body electric" as Whitman might say) of poetry. He was so successful in doing so that he was one of the rare poets to be celebrated during his lifetime, being awarded the Pulitzer Prize and named the poet laureate of Vermont.

Let's look closely to see the effects of one of his metaphors:

Line 3: "From what I’ve tasted of desire"

Though the poem presents "fire" and "ice" as dynamic metaphors for "desire" and "hate," in the third line we see a very simple implied metaphor: to taste desire. By suggesting desire is something that can be tasted, Frost compares desire to food: something concrete, flavorful, and nourishing. In so doing, he reveals more about desire: that desire, like food, is necessary for sustenance. This heightens the ironic paradox of the poem: the thing that nourishes is the same thing that will destroy us.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Fire and Ice," for all its brevity, develops a profound theme and raises intriguing questions in regard to human nature. The primary literary device in the poem is that of implied metaphor. Fire becomes a metaphor for human desire, which is made clear in the third line. Ice works as a metaphor for hatred, which is implied in line 6. Another literary device is that of antithesis. Fire is the antithesis of ice. In finding an underlying similarity in their metaphorical opposites, Frost develops his theme: Human desire, such as love or passion, can be just as destructive as human hatred. The theme suggests an irony inherent in human emotions.The first two lines of the poem are allusions to different scientific theories relating to the future of the planet within the solar system. In regard to its poetry techniques, "Fire and Ice" features an interlocking rhyme scheme and iambic meter. Also, alliteration is present in the poem (Some/say and favor/fire).

epollock | Student

princessdiva,

Robert Frost's brief poem "Fire and Ice" refers to two modes of ending the world: fire (metaphor for war, apocalypse, being swallowed up by a gigantic explosion of the sun into a supernova) and ice (metaphor for ice age, cooling, dying of the sun and the consequent extinction of all life).

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


The poem investigates the destructive power of human passion (metaphors of desire and hate) through the symbolism of cosmic destruction by fire or ice. Fire is linked with desire; ice with hatred. The speaker knows both, and knows that both are strong enough to end the world (i.e., the human race)

One has to admire that final suffice; a magnificent understatement, it further shows the power of a rime to close a poem.

climbergirl345 | Student

In the poem, Frost is comparing fire to hate and ice to greed.  Fire and ice can destroy a structure, while hate and greed can ruin a person or a relationship between people.  Hate destroys quickly, and leaves only scars behind, while greed slowly attacks and does permanent damage to a person or relationship.  Fire destroys everything, and structures must be rebuilt; while ice only damages and weakens, but what remains needs to be repaired before it can be used, but is often abandoned instead of fixed.  Fire burns out quickly, but ice can last for long periods and even return later. 

polito1997 | Student

Haha this is from my 9th grade textbook !

Read the study guide:
The Poetry of Robert Frost

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