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Robert Frost's 'After Apple-Picking': A Critical Analysis

Ayesha is an English literature and language teacher. She obtained her Master's degree in English Literature.


Symbolism of Apple

Robert Frost’s ‘After Apple Picking’ is one of the most outstanding nature works in English literature. Apple is symbolic of temptation. It refers to the temptation that forced Man to eat the fruit in the garden of Eden. Man must pay for the disobedience of his parents and as a result, must spend a life in this world which is full of toiling and hard work. The poet appears to be tired of the burden of his long life and in the end, goes to sleep. However, the nature of his sleep remains undecided.

The poet begins by saying that he has had a great harvest and his trees have produced the fruit of his life. He is tired of apple picking as he says

'done with apple-picking now'.

He has had thousands of apples to touch and is enjoying the satisfaction of it.

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Symbolism of the Ladder

The poet is standing on a ladder. The ladder is reminiscent of the hierarchical order as man is the crown of creation. The ladder is also symbolic of different stages of life. His standing at the top of it shows that he has become old. He has had the most excellent harvest of his life. The apples may symbolise the fruit of his good deeds in this life. He has been filling barrels and barrels with apples. The scent of the apples is in the atmosphere so much so that it has caused drowsiness. The poet is intoxicated by the smell of the apples

From the Conscious to the Unconscious

The poet then shares a spiritual experience that he had in the morning. He saw a piece of ice on the water. He picked it up and looked at the hoary grass through this thin piece of ice. At this time, he achieved a spiritual union, but it ended quickly as the ice began melting. It was a short-lived experience. This spiritual experience provided him with a new vision. He became conscious of the unconscious.

A Changed Perception

After this spiritual union with his God, he started to look at the world in a different way. He goes into a dream where he sees magnified apples coming before him. These apples again give the image of the fruit of his good deeds. The swaying of the ladder is reminiscent of the swaying from the conscious to the unconscious. He cannot be free from the physical self because of the pressure that his feet are experiencing on the ladder. He is having a mystical experience where he has left the world. He says that a few apples fell out of the barrels and became bruised, but still, they can be utilised. The apples can be taken as the poet’s work. Some of it has been given due applause. Some of it has not won the praise of his readers. The bruised apples are also symbolic of the sins that he committed in his life.

The Poet's Sleep

After a life full of hard work and toil, he has had his harvest and now has fallen asleep. This sleep can be an ordinary slumber. It can also be the sleep of death as the poet has worked hard in his youth. He has got the fruit in his old age. He is content with whatever he has. He is ready to die and be one with his God.

Robert Frost Quote Poster

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