Robert Frosts poem, After Apple-Picking is a depiction of an individuals realization that death is looming near. And due to this self-discovery, the individual looks back upon his/her life with disappointment and regret. The speaker is overwhelmed with life and uncertain about life itself. The theme of this poem deals with the speakers feelings of disappointment and regret at the close of his/her life. Frost develops and reinforces the theme through by implementing symbols, images, rhythm, tone, and diction.
The speaker uses the symbol of the apple to allude to the biblical story of creation that helps contribute to the interpretation of the poem. In Genesis, Eve picks the apple from the tree marking the beginning of life or better, as the beginning of new experiences and knowledge. The apple in this poem is a symbol of new experiences and knowledge. Frost develops his theme by narrating in the poem: Theres a barrel that I didnt fill/ Beside it, there may be two or three/ Apples that I didnt pick upon some bough.
The apples that were not picked represent experiences and knowledge never gained and deeds that were never accomplished. Barrels represent the desire to accomplish tasks but the fact that the barrels were empty, expresses the speakers regret for unfinished tasks at the end of a lifetime. A series of images are provided by the speaker to show that he/she feels that death is looming near and that is looking back upon life with regret. The first image provided in the very first line in the poem depicting a two-pointed ladder pointing through a tree toward heaven still.
This is the first image shown to convey the speakers concern that death is looming near. Later in the poem, there is an image of the ladder swaying as the boughs bend. This shows that the speaker thinks that the ladder might break bringing the speaker even closer to death. Another image is given in these several lines: There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch. Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble. The image of the speaker ten thousand thousand apples falling produces the feeling that the speaker is overwhelmed with life.
Also, provided the image that the apples struck the earth and became either bruised or spiked with stubble portrays the speakers life attempts and mistakes made, thus once again, producing a sense of regret in the speakers life. The speakers world is reflected with a sense of inconsistency shown by the inconsistent rhyme in the poem. Every one of the lines in the poem is rhymed with at least another line in the poem. It is not that the poem does not have a rhyme to it because it does but the speaker creates this rhyme scheme implicitly.
In the very beginning, the speaker creates a certain pattern in rhyme with the first few lines at a meter of abba, but the pattern of the rhyme changes creating other meters such as abab or abac. It varies, but the rhyme will every so often come back to the meter of abba. This inconsistency of the rhyming scheme helps to tell that the speaker may be troubled with keeping to decisions or plans being made. The scheme helps convey that the tasks may be first attempted but are abandoned then taken up again.
But notice that those tasks were never really completed. Even the rhyming scheme is a poetic element contains an implicit reinforcement to the poems theme. The speaker has set a certain tone to the words which create a certain mood throughout the entire poem. The tone helps convey the speakers attitude toward life. He/She does not sound frustrated or angry about the tasks not accomplished in his/her life. The tone creates a peaceful type of atmosphere which helps to see that the speaker is rather calm yet depressed about his/her unaccomplished goals.
The diction in this poem reveal that there are connotations that help in the interpretation of the theme. The speaker uses words such as sleep, night, and winter in the narrative. These words are used to connotate death. However, the speaker does not use these words in such a way that represent a violent or scary death. The speaker says, Essence of winter sleep is on the night,/ The scent of apples: I am drowsing off Notice that the words are chosen and used in such a way that reflects peace within the speaker even with death looming near.
Yet, near the end of the poem, it is interesting that the speaker states, One can see what will trouble/ This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. This statement no longer conveys peace within the speaker. These words create a feeling of unrest in the speakers mind that maybe throughout the course of his/her reflection and has come to a troubling realization and says, The woodchuck could say whether its like his/ Long sleep as I describe its coming on,/ Or just some human sleep.
These last couple lines reveal a whole new perspective about the meaning of death. The speaker is no longer sure if he/she is really dying or has just simply ceased to live. Living as in the act of experiencing life. The speaker no longer has motivation to live anymore that causes him/her to become overwhelmed and regretful. Thus, with these very last lines in the poem, the speaker is not sure that the speaker is referring to death as in dying physically or death as in the human spirit which has caused him/her to reflect upon his/her life.
This poem is basically a reflection of the speakers regret for his/her own life. The speaker had the desire to accomplish many things in his/her life but for whatever reason, it was either never taken up or completed. Masterfully, the speaker paints his/her thoughts and feelings of regret and sadness through the use of symbols, images, and carefully chosen diction. All these poetic elements have been inconspicuously implemented in the poem to portray the speakers attitude toward life.