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What's it all for?

"For all/That struck the earth,/No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,/Went surely to the cider-apple heap/As of no worth./One can see what will trouble/This sleep of mine, whatever it is."

I thought this was an interesting quote because it adds a little bit more complexity to the poem. From what I've read of Robert Frost, his poetry is powerful in the fact that it's never exactly what it appears to be at first glance. There is always an extra layer that makes the poem more ambiguous or complicated. At first glance this poem seems to be about picking apples; looking at it again, it seems like this might be a metaphor about dying and coming to the end of life's journey. Reading it that way, it's easy to interpret it as looking at death as a warm, comforting sleep at the end of a long day of work. But according to this quote the sleep is not comfortable but "trouble[d]." The apples the speaker has picked are all going into a heap to be made into cider, no matter how ripe or good to eat they may be--a heap the speaker believes indicates the apples, and thus all the work he has been doing,as being "of no worth." The complacency I initially associated with this poem doesn't really hold up in this set of lines. There seems to be much more of an existential struggle for what the purpose of life is here, if apple-picking really is a metaphor for life. In fact, the "sleep" the speaker mentions may not even be death; he does not know what kind of sleep it is, but he feels the woodchuck might be able to tell him. So now it seems like this poem is not so much a comforting reassurance of the well-deserved sleep that comes at the end of life but more a portrayal of the uncertainty of when death will come, and when it does come, the uncertainty of what the purpose of life really is. Way to go, Frosty!

Comments (1)

Jennifer Prex:

I had never looked at it that way before, but after reading your interpretation and then rereading the quote you chose, I can definitely see what you mean. That's an interesting way to look at it. Even the words Frost chose ("As of no worth" and "whatever it is") indicate a sense of uncertainty.

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