In any life, one must endure hardship to enjoy the good times. According to Robert Frost, the author of Birches, enduring lifes hardships can be made easier by finding a sane balance between ones imagination and reality. The poem is divided into four parts: an introduction, a scientific analysis of the bending of birch trees, an imaginatively false analysis of the phenomenon involving a New England farm boy, and a reflective wish Frost makes, wanting to return to his childhood. All of these sections have strong underlying philosophical meanings. Personification, alliteration, and other sound devices support these meanings and themes.
Frost supports the theme by using language to seem literal, yet if one visualizes the setting and relates it to life, the literal and figurative viewpoints can be nearly identical. Take this example: Life is too much like a pathless wood. This simile describes how one can be brought down by the repetitive routine of day-to-day life, but only if one processes the barren, repetitive forest scene that Frost paints in that sentence. Sound devices also add to the effect of the poem. Frost gives the image of the morning after an ice storm, as the ice cracks on the birch trees: They click upon themselves / As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored / As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. / Soon the suns warmth makes them shed crystal shells / Scattering and avalanching on the snow crust– The repeating /s/, /z/, and /k/, sounds in this passage are strong examples of alliteration, and sound devices are crucial in the image presented; calm, reflecting, and romanticizing, like a quiet walk in the woods. The /k/ sound is the sound of the ice cracking off of the birches and shattering and crashing on the snow crust. The /s/ and /z/ sounds suggest the rising morning breeze, and they increase as the passage continues.
Birch trees are naturally very flexible. Frost explains that this is caused by ice storms placing weight upon the branches: When I see birches bend to left and right / Across the line of straighter darker trees, / I like to think some boy been swinging in them. / But swinging doesnt bend them down to stay. / Ice storms do that. Often you must have seen them. He writes of the difference between childhood and adulthood in the first two lines of this passage. The comparison is of the youthful birches with children playing in them to the dark and rigidly conforming straight tree. The straighter darker trees are the symbol of adulthood, of the ridiculous redundancy of the private sector. Frost appears to despise this repetitiveness and for this reason, he becomes a poet. In this occupation he can use his imagination, and walk the border between the birches and the straight trees.
The theme of the poem refers to finding a balance between realism and imagination, and that finding this balance would help ease the pains of life downtrodden times. There is, however, a twist to this theme: They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load / And they seem not to break; though one they are bowed / So low for long, they never right themselves: A traumatic event in ones life, an ice storm in relation to birch trees, will never cease to exist in the mind, regardless of the imagination. These events will gradually bend ones inner spectrum, making a full recovery impossible; regardless of what comforts may be available.
Realism is represented as the personified villain Truth: But I was going to say when Truth broke in / With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm / I should prefer to have some boy bend them. Truth is realism, or the lack of imagination that tells of the scientific theory of why birches bend. Truth is the antagonist, the guard and apostle of the straighter darker trees, who haunts the speaker with where he should be and what he should be doing, not the romanticizing of childhood and birch-swinging, but his work, and the redundancy he deserves to be put through, according to Truth.
In the next section, Robert Frost writes of some boy. He is stereotypically a New England