Saturday, December 4, 2010

Write a note on the dramatic dialogue of Frost with special reference to the Death of the Hired Man and Mending Walls.

Frost's lyrics may be divided into two broad categories. They are Pure lyrics and Dramatic lyrics. Pure lyrics are short pieces, personal and subjective. In such short pieces, we feel nearest to the poet, for in them the poet's personality is fully unfolded. They are in the nature of emotional responses to particular situations which confront the poet. They are an expression of the poet's own moods and emotions. The lyrics in A Boy's Will, his earliest volume of verses, consist of such short pieces. They are an expression of the poet's searchings, questionings, affirmings and cherishings. The poet explores his own his to his beloved, to strangers, to nature, to the universe, and to God.

Dramatic lyrics are in the form either of dramatic dialogue or dramatic monologue; and they are much longer than the pure lyrics. They do not express the poet's own personal responses but those of some imagined character or characters. The poet effaces himself completely, and speaks through the medium of the imagined character. Thus he achieves the same objectivity as characterises a drama. Further, as in a drama they depict some sort of action. The action may be external, developing through character confrontation or through a dialogue between two or more characters. The action is seen in terms of the effect they have on each other; in the give and take which results when people speak their minds to one another. In the dramatic monologue, on the other hand, the action is always psychological—it consists of the change which takes place in the attitudes and emotional responses of the characters concerned. They are lyrics because of the intensity and immediacy with which emotion is expressed. They have the intensity of a personally felt motion.
In the pure, personal lyrics, Frost's language has a rare smoothness, force and sublimity. The communication is direct without any interruptions and breaks in the form of asides, pauses and parentheses. On the other hand, in the longer dramatic lyrics the medium is the conversational language and so the diction is replete with the characteristics of the spoken tongue. As in speech, so in these lyric, there are constant breaks, pauses, unfinished sentences, ellipses, ejaculations, repetitions, etc. The speaker has no patience to round off a sentence but breaks it up as soon as he feels that his meaning has been conveyed. Or, the speaker is too much excited to complete his meaning and breaks off in the middle. Or he abruptly interrupts his speech to talk about something else, or to throw in a side comment or an interjection. The most important things in the diction of poems like The Home Burial, Directive, etc., are the breaks, the dashes, the asides and the exclamations. The speaking voice and the conversational rhythms are the basis, and in each case the rhythms, tones; and inflections according to the requirements of the mood and emotion. The tone and accent of the speaker are different in Stopping by Woods, from in those Mending Wall, The Death of the Hired Man, After Apple-Picking, etc. Admiring the conversational tone of Frost's lyrics Mark Van Doren writes, "whether in dialogue or in lyric, his poems are people talking……..The man who talks under the name of Robert Frost knows how to say a great deal in a short space, just as the many men and women whom he has listened to in New Engfand and elsewhere have known how to express in the few words they use more truth than volumes of ordinary rhetoric can express. And Frost's ability to make verse talk and sing increased with years."
Frost provides dramatic intensity in his monologues by fixing attention on the movement of crisis. Such a moment is generally perceived intensely in the case of lonely characters, as for example the traveller in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The critical moment involves illumination of the present moment. Such illumination involves the study of the inner being of man in present action. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening unfolds the psychological crisis of the traveller at the immediate moment. The traveller finds himself charmed by the woods. However, the unseen in the poem brings out the symbolic meaning. Man is charmed and baffled in the woods of life and the world. The crisis is resolved by the traveller deciding to go forward or determining to act and fulfil his duties before death overtakes him.
Frost's volume of verses 'North of Boston' published in 1914 achieved immediate popularity. It is predominately a 'book of people', and the prevailing mood is not subjective but, "dramatic narrative and monologue". A variety of New England characters has been introduced and their re-action to the human predicament have been expressed in an easy, lucid, conversational and colloquial style. The poems in this volume paint the bleakest picture of human life to be found in the poetry of Frost. These blank-verse narratives of New England ways and manners are triumphs of psychological characterisation both in moments of success and failure, in simple rural surroundings. This makes the volume a study of considerable interest, both of New England scenes and New England people.
The Death of the Hired Man published in North of Boston, is one of the better known dramatic lyrics of Robert Frost. It is dramatic because it does not express the emotions of the poet, but of two imagined characters, a husband and wife, and as in a drama the narration is conducted through dialogue between them. The essence of a drama is action, and here the action consists in the change of attitude of the husband towards the hired man. The poem also achieves the emotional intensity of a lyric, specially towards its end. The central figure in the poem is the hired man, Silas, whose death the poem records. Silas himself never appears on the scene, but we know a great deal about him from the dialogue between the husband and the wife, Warren and Mary.
Silas is the old farm-hand who offended Warren and Mary by leaving them during busy days, not once but many times when farm-hands were so much in demand. The dramatic conflict in the poem arises from Mary's efforts to persuade her husband to have pity on Silas, forget the past, and help him in his broken old age. Warren, who is more tied to practical considerations, objects that the old man is unreliable and will be of little use to them. He can see no reason why he should take back the man who again and again comes to work on their farm only to leave them for higher wages, just at harvest time, when he was most needed. Warren has not seen the hired man since his return, and he does not know that he is close to death, "But what is more important, he does not understand the hired man's character." The action of the dramatic dialogue lies in the revealing of the hired man's true self as Mary strives to make her husband understand the fundamental self-respect which lies beneath his plea for their help. "In the struggle between Mary's sympathy and Warren's practical objections, each additional argument provides fresh information. As Mary's understanding gradually wins Warren over to a more compassionate view, the hired man is revealed in clearer and clearer outline."
"The final truth about his personality is his death." When we learn of this at the end of the poem, it comes as the inevitable culmination to all that we have come to know about him. For it is in the fact of death that we see the basis of his character and life, the high idealism which would not allow him to throw himself on the charity of relatives, but led him instead to seek work at Warren's farm, in order that he might at least maintain the fiction of his independence.
Perhaps the most famous lines in the poem are those in which husband and wife exchange definitions of home. Here the mood changes, and light irony is exchanged for deep pathos. The husband's mocking definition is offered first:
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in
To which the wife, with reproving mildness, replies:
I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve.
The last lines in the poem read as follows:
Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
"Warren?" she questioned.
 "Dead", was all he answered.
Mending Wall, was also included in North of Boston published in 1914. It is also a dramatic lyric on monologue. The speaker is a young man, presumably the poet himself, and the lyric is an expression of his views and attitudes. The other character is the poet's neighbour, an old farmer. He does not speak even a single word, but we know of his view and attitudes, of his conservatism and orthodoxy, from what the speaker says about him. Apparently the monologue is merely descriptive and anecdotal, but it leaves the readers with a sense of puzzlement, with a feeling that the poet is driving at some point which is not clearly understood.
The speaker in the poem, the poet himself, and his neighbour get together every spring to repair the stone wall between their respective properties. The neighbour, an old New England farmer, seems to have a deep-seated faith in the value of walls and fences. He declines to explain his belief and only reiterates his father's saying, "Good fences make good neighbours". The speaker is of the opposite opinion. As he points out:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
The poem portrays a clash between these two points of view, and it may, therefore, seem that its meaning is the solution, Frost offers to the conflict. The poem leads one to ask, which of the two is right, the speaker or his Yankee neighbour?
Its two famous lines oppose each other. The poem maintains that:
Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
But it also insists:
Good fences make good neighbours.
The contradiction is logical, for the opposing statements are uttered by two different types of people and both are right. Man cannot live without walls, boundaries, limits and particularly self-limitations; yet he resents all bound: and is happy at the downfall of any barrier.

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