illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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How does Robert Frost reconcile with modernization and modernity?

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Frost does address modernization, and he wrote at a time when the world was becoming modern.  Some people have interpreted “The Road Less Traveled” as a commentary on modernization.  This is definitely the case in “Out, Out,” a poem where a boy loses his land from a saw and dies as a result.

In “The Road Less Traveled” we have a person who stops at a fork in the road and cannot make a decision.  One of the consequences of modernization is endless decisions.  Is the speaker’s inability to decide which road to take a testament to the forced choices of the modern world?

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back. (“The Road Less Traveled”)

This can be interpreted as acceptance of a world that is different now.  We can never go back to the simpler time, before the modern world made us make so many choices.

“Out, Out” is a disturbing poem, because it describes a boy’s injury and death in a farm machine accident in a very non-emotional way.

The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,

As he swung toward them holding up the hand

Half in appeal, but half as if to keep

The life from spilling.  (“Out, Out”)

It is almost as if we have already sealed our fate.  We have taken this step of modernization, to accept machines and modern society and abandon simple farm ways.  In the old days, someone else would have been holding the saw or the boy would have held the saw.  The person would have stopped.  Yet this saw literally seems to have a mind of its own.  It sees the boy’s hand as dinner.  We have to sell ourselves to these modern conveniences, and we pay the price.

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