Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The central theme in “The Most of It” is the human attempt to commune with nature—to connect with some spirit or presence and lose the sense of isolation and alienation. Frost’s poem shares this theme with a long tradition of earlier Western literature, stretching from the classical myth of Narcissus and Echo in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c. 8 c.e.) through pastoral, romantic, and transcendentalist literature in the centuries since the Renaissance.

Much of this earlier literature would suggest that the reader might bring to “The Most of It” a sympathetic and supportive view of the man’s spiritual quest. In particular, New England Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, whose writings Frost admired, posited a pantheistic Oversoul (Emerson’s term) that would nourish the spirit of people who sought it in nature. Also, Frost would have been aware of the close correspondence between the man in his poem and a similar character to whom nature’s voices do respond in “There was a boy,” a famous section in the 1805 version of William Wordsworth’s The Prelude (Book V, lines 364-388).

On the other hand, Frost’s presentation of his character suggests a more ironic sense of the man’s similarities to Narcissus, the archetypally self-centered character in the classical myth. Like Narcissus, Frost’s man seems to suffer in an echo chamber largely of his...

(The entire section is 435 words.)