If you could decide how the world ends, how would you like it to play out? Would you want it to be slow and painless to a point where it is unrecognizable? Perhaps you would rather it be painful but fast? This is what I feel Robert Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice,” is supposed to express.
While this is a short piece, it begs the question: How would you like your life to be finalized? There may only be two choices in a situation such as this. To start, the opening lines of the poem deliver the choices, “Some say the world will end in fire, / Some say in ice.”; To me, this has a double meaning. I feel he says this to not only depict the penalty that is able to be inflicted upon something, but also to portray the direct meaning of a burning flame. It bestows the image of the severe pain and injury which a burn can cause, yet it is accompanied by the quickness of the pain. Fire causes an immense amount of obliteration to nearly anything within a matter of seconds. Obviously it would be convenient to get the end of the world over with at a rapid pace, but the severe pain may just make it not worth it. On the other hand, if the world were to end in ice, this would most certainly present a numbing, slow effect.
I feel that he uses the ice to represent a lethargic, nearly unnoticeable revision that will over time cause the end of mankind. Next, fire is defined as “combustion or burning…,” and it is clear that Frost uses it to portray an ending with superspeed, but unbearable pain. The quote, “From what I’ve tasted of desire,” seems to represent how people are often impatient. Today, many people are unable to wait for anything. They want what they want, when they want it.
This being why people take out loans. Say someone wants a car but does not want to save the money. They take out a loan. This way, they borrow the money and pay it back later, of course with interest and at a higher cost. This causes many people to be in debt. Impatience. I feel that the quote clearly discusses this by using the word “desire.” It talks about the fact that many people are unwilling to wait for things, and if the world is going to end, let it happen.
Judging by my interpretation, the narrator seems to agree because of the line “I hold with those who favor fire.” “But if it had to perish twice,” is expressing that although the narrator would prefer to get it over and done with quickly, he believes that there must be another way that is not so awful. Ice, the alternative to fire, also has its leads. In this piece, the line “I think I know enough hate,” explains how the destruction of fire is caused by evil and hate. “To say that for destruction ice / Is also great,” points out the fact that there is a slow and calm way to end things.
It would take a tremendous amount of time for the world to go over in ice…perhaps at such a slow rate that nobody ever even notices. It could be happening as you are reading these words. The ice represents a cold, numb feeling.
Think about sticking your arms in buckets of ice, or even sitting in the tub filled with it… at first you can feel it. You’re shivering, your skin is pale, and your lips are a brash, purple color. But as time goes on, you do not feel anything. Soon, anything you can do to your frozen body is going to be almost completely unnoticeable. You won’t feel a thing. It is true that when people are exposed to a constant condition for an extended period of time, a slight increase in potency will go essentially unnoticed. For example, take television and movies. When they began, many things were not acceptable to do on screen.
Profanity and things like drinking and sex were not allowed. If they were to play the cartoon “South Park” back in the 1960’s, there is a good chance that that station would lose their license. However, as time went on, stations slowly brought those “unacceptable words” into media and more common things, and people just adjusted to it.
Since everything occurred over such a long period of time, people barely notice the change. This is what I feel Frost was trying to express by using the word ice. The final line of this piece talks about the end of the world by ice. “And would suffice.” This final comment was meant to represent his view that while he may favor a painful, quick ending… a slow and unnoticeable one would not be such a bad choice. Robert Frost’s poem most certainly has many different interpretations. What I have decided to believe begs a very interesting and important question though.
When something terrible is going to happen, which way is best? To have things done quickly but with mass destruction and intense pain. Or should things change slowly so the wreckage is not noticed? I’d choose for the end to be in ice. Which would you prefer?