The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Most of It” is a lyric poem cast in twenty lines of rhymed iambic pentamer. The title contains a dual meaning that reflects an important contrast between the attitudes of the male character in the poem and of Robert Frost himself.

The man in the poem wants “the most of it”: He wants more out of life than it ordinarily provides. Thus he spends time alone in nature, seeking a certain kind of response from “the universe,” but he feels disappointed when nature does not provide that kind of response.

On the other hand, the title also ironically alludes to the common phrase “make the most of it.” Through this allusion, Frost implies that the man expects the world to do too much for him and that he should participate more energetically in perceiving and creating satisfaction for himself. The poem suggests that the man has not “made the most” of his experience in this sense; Frost, through a powerful display of his poetic prowess, definitely has.

Though Frost does not separate the lines into stanzas, the action of the poem falls into two distinct sections. The first eight lines present the man and his situation, while the last twelve describe his sighting of “a great buck,” a large male deer. The first section introduces a man with an exalted—perhaps too exalted—conception of himself: “He thought he kept the universe alone.” As another person might think of “keeping” house, this man thinks of...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Through the vivid imagery and powerful form of “The Most of It,” Frost draws a vivid contrast between the man’s naïvely sentimental expectations of nature and the harsh but awe-inspiring reality that he does encounter but seems to be too narrow-minded to appreciate.

The first section of the poem presents a situation in which the man’s sentimental view of nature seems ironically out of synch with the details of the natural world around him. As noted earlier, in his rather domestic scenario, he thinks of himself “[keeping] the universe” as if it were a house. What he wants from nature sounds more like what one would want from another person, perhaps a wife: “counter-love, original response.” What he faces in the scene around him, however, is a “tree-hidden cliff across the lake” and a “boulder-broken beach.” Frost’s images suggest that nature in this situation is too obscure, remote, and harsh to provide the man with the human kind of response that he is convinced he needs to find there.

Similarly, in the second section, Frost’s images show how nature provides the man with an experience that is ironically so “original,” so “counter” to his own expectations, that it is difficult for him to respond to it. The verbs that Frost chooses for the buck’s first appearance clearly associate the animal with the wild and harsh natural scene of the first section: He “crashed” in the talus and “splashed” into the...

(The entire section is 581 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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Galbraith, Astrid. New England as Poetic Landscape: Henry David Thoreau and Robert Frost. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

Gerber, Philip L. Robert Frost. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

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