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Gender Roles and Robert Frost’s Poetry

Robert Frost is considered by many literary scholars to be the quintessential American poet. He was nowhere near as “radical” as the transcendental thinkers such as Emerson and Thoreau, and was more traditional than Walt Whitman. Robert Frost consistently cast traditional 19th century gender roles in his poetry.

At a much closer glance, however, the poetry of Robert Frost reflects undertones of traditional gender roles. These roles bounce between the hard worker he describes, coming home to become intimate with his wife in his poem “Putting in the Seed”, the contrast of a stronger woman in “Home Burial”, and the other example of a pastoral woman in “Out, out” illustrate the major similarities in Frost’s gender roles.

The poem “Putting in the Seed” has a title that even evokes eroticism, especially after even quickly reading the poem. The man in this poem is clearly cast into a very stereotypical gender role right from the beginning, even taken literally: Frost describes a man coming home from a long day at work to enjoy the “supper” his wife has clearly prepared for him. This is about where the PG rating ends, however.

The remainder of the poem is an extremely erotic string of metaphors–first dealing with the act of sex itself, and following with hints at childbirth. He casted the man in a traditional role; described as not only the breadwinner, but also in a somewhat dominate sexual manner.

The woman also seems to be cast in a traditional role. She has supper ready for her man when he returns home, and is not only cast in a submissive sexual role but also as a mother. This was relatable to every American family reading Frost’s poems whilst he was writing.

This same ideal can be applied when looking at his poem “Home Burial”. The poem describes the loss a children by a couple. Opening, this is not the apparent subject, however, Frost slowly gives clues through dialogue to frame this idea.

Though the main idea of the poem is clearly to contrast the grieving process between men and women, in doing so Frost also cast gender roles beyond simply this fact. He makes the motherly role in Amy apparent, again through mostly dialogue. She is clearly upset that her husband has had the ability to move on, and she has not. Amy feels her husband has grieved way too quickly.

The end of the poem also affirms Amy’s husbands’ dominance, specifically when he asserts that should she leave, he will find her and return her by force. On the other hand, this is also very different from the wife in the first poem; Amy seems more dominant, freethinking, and strong-willed.

Though the female role differs in some ways in the first two poems, Frost’s casting of traditional roles reemerges in his poem “Out, out…” Although this is not the main idea of the poem, the “pastoral” setting, as well as the description of the wife and her role is clearly enough to solidify the point. Frost often cast traditional gender roles.

 

 

Sources

“An Anthology for Valentine’s Day.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

“”Home Burial” by Robert Frost.” “Home Burial” by Robert Frost. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

“Out, Out– by Robert Frost.” Literatureatuwccr. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.