Symbolism in After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost
Robert Frost was a nature poet. His devotional performance towards nature elevates his place to a higher stand. The pantheistic philosophy of nature finds its vent in his poetry. He has always tried to remain within the preview of rural culture and native atheism.
The poem, After Apple-Picking alludes to a certain number of allegorical as well as symbolical stance through the powerful representation of death, beauty, human progress in terms of career and slight powerful influence of nature that keeps hovering over the mind of the farmer. It is natural phenomena that make the poet grow further with the meaningful assistance of natural objects that may be seen or sometimes hidden.
Critics have logically overviewed the poem wearing the glass of meaningful symbolism and they have made a certain or bold representation of several things like death, creation, life, spirit etc. Maturity was always present there in the poetic lines. The phrases like ‘magnified apples’ and ‘sleep’ correlate the inner world of the poet, Robert Frost. The actual condition of the apple picker is represented through the phrases. Here, magnified apples represent the dynamic view of a bucket of red aromatic apples that make the poet sensually numb and speechless. The line is truly lyrical in the true sense.
“Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.”
The apple picker is so much enamored by the magnified apples, he has picked up all through the day that he cannot sleep properly as the beautiful apples simultaneously appear and disappear in his senses. Here, the shadowy representation of death through woodchuck’s ‘long sleep’ and ‘winter sleep’ make the poem more meaningful. It clearly points out towards the end of end of human life and going for his final comfort sleep. The apple picker is so much exhausted that he cannot move further to work beyond. But rather he feels so drowsy hat takes him away from this terrestrial world to a world of sensual beauty but at the same time we can trust over the fact that these two worlds are correlated to each other.
However, it will not be a fault to believe that the whole poem is a powerful representation of a whole human life on this earth. The apple picker quite meaningfully represents the role of each human in this world. A mortal being after doing service and performing duty towards his or her family, society, relatives he becomes exhausted reaching the old age. He gradually grows towards his or her ultimate sound sleep. But his conditional bond with this terrestrial world keeps puling from behind to stop the person every way. The same way the apple picker is exhausted after a long exhaustive day work. He feels drowsy in his sense but cannot sleep just because of his visual effect created by the magnified apples’. He still cannot take a sound sleep even after having such fitful night to sleep.
“One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.”
Another prominent symbolism in the poem is the mention of two pointed ladder. The apple picker uses the ladder as a troop in his apple picking task. The ladder can be interpreted as a Biblical instance which we find in “Genesis”. One of the major characters in the Bible was Jacob who once dreamt that a similar staircase resting upon the Earth being used by the various beautiful angels who are simultaneously ascending and descending on the ladder. The Lord is standing at the top of the ladder and ordering Jacob that
“I will give you and your descendents the land on which you are lying.”
Having serious concern and importance from the point of The Bible the ladder also carries another symbolical meaning that it vigorously represents the struggle of human life to maintain as well as to balance his career which is very difficult to forebear.
“My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill”
Robert Frost by all the way has tried to elevate his poetry through a symbolical representation of various natural objects as well as phenomena. His use of symbols is more often very much sensual rather than optimistic real. Different interconnected ways have been tied up with the main frame of the poem. However, Robert Frost is a truly romantic poet who not only catches up the sensual beauty of the nature but also represents those facts in easily perceptible symbols.
Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale‘ and ‘Ode to an Autumn’ create the same sensual eagerness towards the poetic quest of natural beauty. The ice plate through which the apple picker looks into the depth of morning beauty can be imagined as a vista to a new outlook of the whole world. It is nothing but an effort to visualize the world and the world from the poetic perspectives. And the matter in the poetic vision is powerful it can never be eschewed by the apple picker. The graph of the simplicity as well as the margin of poetic world is so far extended in this poem that we can never miss out one single line without care.
“I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break..”
Sigmund Freud, a psychologist once discovered the theory of iceberg which floats on the surface of ocean with its most of the part under water which invariably represents the human subconscious mind and less part of it above the water level which represents the human conscious mind. The mind of the apple picker goes the same way. He knows that the weather is fit to sleep but as he mentions that he “cannot rub the strangeness” his sight. Hence the whole poem is a powerful representation of a compact strange beauty of nature which the poet, Robert Frost presents here in a clear symbolic manner.