The Poem

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498

“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.

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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 himself in a domestic relationship with the “universe,” and he seeks a response from nature to reassure him that he does not keep it alone. He is frustrated when all he hears is a “mocking echo” of his own voice, though he is crying out for “counter-love, original response.”

In the second section of the poem, the man sights “a great buck,” but he seems strangely unmoved by the experience. Disappointed by his quest in nature, the man feels that “nothing ever came of what he cried/ Unless it was the embodiment that” he saw across the lake. He believes that his pleas have produced either no response or perhaps—merely perhaps—one encounter, which is then described in detail. A being, which the man would like to believe is the “embodiment” of the “counter-love” or “original response” that he seeks, crashes through the talus (loose rock below a cliff) on the other side of the lake and swims toward him. As it moves closer, however, the man realizes that it is not another human, but a large male deer. With great power, the buck moves quickly out of the lake, across the rock-strewn beach, and into the underbrush. The poem ends with a curiously abrupt coda: “—and that was all.” This flat statement might be taken to mean that neither the buck nor anything like it ever appeared to the man again; more likely, it expresses the man’s rueful sense of letdown at this incident and perhaps his entire quest.

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581

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”...

(The entire section contains 1215 words.)

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