The Gift Outright

by Robert Frost

Start Free Trial

Does Robert Frost's "The Gift Outright" use imagery?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Imagery generally refers to sensory descriptions. Authors often use the five senses to draw a reader's attention.

Robert Frost uses very little sensory description, or imagery, in "The Gift Outright." This poem is showing readers how the people of America became Americans. Frost writes,

The land was ours before we were the land's . . . She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we were still unpossessed by . . . (lines 1–6)

Frost shows that it was not living on American soil that turned (white colonial) people into Americans. When settlers first arrived, they still identified with other nations, such as England.

Instead of imagery, Frost adds beauty and strength to his words through other literary devices. For instance, he uses alliteration and repetition. The words "land" and "we" are repeated throughout the text. The repeated use of the pronoun "we" reveals an idea of emerging unity among people from other nations. Words such as "possessed" and "deed" are also repeated.

Additionally, we see alliteration in words such as "withholding" and "weak," "forthwith found," and "salvation" and "surrender." Alliteration often adds to the sense of rhythm and beauty of a poem.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Frost's strongest poetic devices in "The Gift Outright" seem to be personification and metaphor, rather than imagery. Frost personifies the land as "she" and in the first line "The land was ours before we were the land's" suggests the origins and future of America.

The metaphor "deed of gift" in the parenthetical line 13 is a reference that some feel evokes the legal term which means a deed executed and delivered without consideration, no legal promise to give or donate. Frost suggests that the American culture cannot fully be developed until it develops its body and soul through giving "outright/To the land vaguely realizing westward/Such as she was, such as she would become."

In light of this poem having been read at the inauguration of JFK, this last line can call to mind the image of a new nationalism for which the new president stood.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial