VCCS Litonline

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Theme of the Poem

The student wrote--


"Birches" provides an interesting aspect of imagination to oppose reality. Initially, reality is pictured as birches bending and cracking from the load of ice after a freezing rain.

They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:

Reality has its ups and downs. This passage suggests that people never fully recover from being dragged down by life even if they don't seem broken.

Imagination is portrayed as "a swinger of birches." The portrayal of the boy refines this image:

One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again.

The boy seems to take in lessons about life from these encounters with the trees on his father's land:

He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon.

This boy lives away from town and must play by himself. He has learned his father's lessons. Imagination is the gift for escaping reality that each one of us possesses. We do not have to depend on anyone to take a mental vacation. Mastering your art of imagination will increase your ability to handle the bad things life dishes out.

That's why the narrator advocates using imagination. On Earth we can become weary from life's everyday occurrences--that "pathless wood." However, Earth's the place for love--not hate, weariness, or any negative feelings. Therefore, use imagination to come back to reality relaxed. At the end, the narrator imagines climbing the birch tree "Toward heaven"--to the top and swinging a branch down to the ground. Suddenly he sounds relaxed and carefree. Isn't this better than the villain "Truth"? It sounds like imagination works.

Your turn to respond--

Assess This Theme Statement

typehand.gif (8738 bytes)Stating the theme, or main idea, of the poem requires connecting it to real life, to some vision of how life works. Has this writer achieved that goal? If you were the editor for this essay, what praise would you give for this first section while leaving it as is, or what changes would you suggest to the author?

For a sample answer to this question, click here.

(Click here for a hint on re-opening a word processor.)


This student had to follow a prescribed order of topics when she did this evaluative essay, but she manages to reveal several insights as she follows the prescribed plan. She is quoting--brief passages not long ones--and explaining each quotation from the poem in turn to support her notion of the poet's point. She is also being careful to distinguish between the speaker in the poem and the poet, Robert Frost, who invented the "voice," or speaker, we hear in this poem.

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Technical Reminder: When quoting a poem, you may skip lines above and below and center the line-by-line quotation for brief quotations, or you may write the brief quotation into your paragraph, marking line breaks with a slash ( / ). Quoting 4 lines or more requires the method shown above.

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