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

In "Fire and Ice," composed fewer than two years after the end of World War I, Frost employs a pair of related metaphors, comparing fire to desire and ice to hate, suggesting that either one could lead to the "end" of the world. He also ends with an understatement that lends a tone of irony to the whole poem.

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Frost employs a pair of related metaphors , comparisons of two unalike things where one is said to be the other. The speaker claims that people have identified two possibilities for the destruction of the world: fire and ice (lines 1-2). He says, "From what I've tasted of desire /...

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Frost employs a pair of related metaphors, comparisons of two unalike things where one is said to be the other. The speaker claims that people have identified two possibilities for the destruction of the world: fire and ice (lines 1-2). He says, "From what I've tasted of desire / I hold with those who favor fire" (3). This compares desire to fire, a destructive force that moves quickly. Next, he says that he knows "enough of hate / To say that for destruction ice / Is also great" (6-8). These lines compare hate to ice, an equally destructive force but one that moves more slowly. We might wonder, desire for what? Hatred of what? It is illuminating, I think, to consider that this poem was written in 1920, fewer than two years after the end of World War I.

Perhaps this desire refers to desire for land, for power, or resources; when countries wage war on one another, it is almost always the result of a desire for something. Further, this kind of desire can be linked to war and is this associated with firepower, guns, and explosions.

Perhaps the hatred refers to way we might develop an antipathy toward cultures, ethnicities, and religions different from our own. If we ignore the need of another people, turning a blind eye because they are different from us, this is very emotionally cold, so to speak, right? We destroy the world slowly with such hatred.

In the end, Frost employs an understatement, giving the whole poem a tone of irony. He says that "ice / Is also great / And would suffice" (7-9). To suffice is to be just enough, to be only just sufficient to meet a need or want but no more. Given the possible associations with ice, it seems clear that hatred would be more than enough to end the world. Fire/desire would get it done more quickly, but ice/hate is just as powerful, in the end. This use of understatement almost makes it sound as though the question of how the world will end is moot, to the speaker. It doesn't particularly matter how it will end, but it seems inevitable to him that it will end.

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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.

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"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).

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