 Archetypal Imagery: A Look at Robert Frost


    Definition of Archetype
    Self-portraits of the instincts.
    Archetypal images are symbols through which instinctive things show themselves in dreams.
    Occur in mythology, fairytales, and religions.
    Universal symbols that are available to us even though we have no knowledge of them.
    Common psychic structures that parallel the common human physical structure.
    Common form of literary analysis.
    Can fall into two major categories: characters, situations/symbols.
    Definition continued
    Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that archetypes were the result of a collective unconscious:
    Primordial: archetypal images ingrained in us before we are born
    Universal: found all over world, throughout history. Manifestation of the idea may be different, but idea itself is the same.
    Examples of Archetypes
    Hero: saving the day
    Outcast: cast out of society; Christ figure
    The quest: character’s searching consciously or unconsciously; actions, thoughts, and feelings center around goal
    Water: life, cleansing, and rebirth
    Setting sun: death
    Red: blood, passion; disorder
    White: light, innocence, purity
    Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking”
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep on the night,
The scent of apples: 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.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter it 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 sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
 
    Understanding of “After Apple-Picking” and Symbols
    Main symbol is derived from nature.
    Presents the consequences of man’s condemnation to earning his bread in the sweat of his brow-madness
    Could also represent the morbidly acute sense of mortality, of death in life.
    Examples from Poem
    “…a barrel that I didn’t’ fill / Beside it, and there may be two or three / Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.” ( lines 3-5)
    Part of life Frost missed out on or some experience that passed him by.
    Examples continued
    Magnified apples appear and disappear” (line 18)
    Opportunities that come and go. Not quite full barrel best representation of life not complete, but not really missing anything.
    Still…more examples
    “For I have had too much / Of apple-picking: I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired.” (lines 27-29)
    “One can see what trouble / This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. / Were he not gone, / The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his / long sleep, as I describe its coming on, / Or just some human sleep.” (lines 37-42)
    Here it is almost obvious that the poet is talking about something more than just apple-picking.
    Nature of man’s life and work and possibly death.
 
    Yes…more examples
    “ My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree / Toward heaven still,” (lines 1 & 2)
    Mention of heaven sets the focus; set at the top of the tree; relation between man’s labor and the surcease from it, between earthly life and a possible afterlife.
    Although it is less obvious than most other poems, the tree is a means of climbing toward heaven at least momentarily.
    YAY…more examples
    “Essence of winter sleep is on the night, / The scent of apples…” (lines 7 & 8)
    The scent is obviously not a literal perfume, but the essential qualities of winter sleep, the post harvest state of mind.
    Conclusion
        Archetypal imagery is a form of literary analysis. It is a type of character or event that can occur in everyday life. They are universal symbols that are all around us even though we have no knowledge of them. Carl Jung’s beliefs in archetypes were of a collective unconscious and his two archetypes that he focused on were Primordial and Universal. Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking” had various archetypal imagery such as water representing the window as a barrier an revealer to the world, the top of the tree as a ladder towards heaven, and sleep as a strong representation for death.
    Works Cited
http://mcqesq.wordpress.com/robert-frost/
http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/archetype.html
http://www.planetpapers.com/Assets/Print/3892.php
Bagby, George F. Frost and the Book of Nature. The University of Tennessee Press/ Knoxville. 1993. Pages 42, 43
Harris, Kathryn Gibbs. Robert Frost: Studies of the Poetry. G.K. Hall & Co. Boston, Mass. 1979.
Lentricchia, Frank. Robert Frost: Modern Poetics and the Landscapes of Self. Duke University Press. Durham, N.C. 1975.
Nitchie, George W. Human Values in the Poetry of Robert Frost. Duke University Press. Durham, N.C. 1960. Page 92.
Potter, James. Robert Frost Handbook. The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1980. Pages 64, 65, 70, 86, 87, 137, 155, 160.

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