Robert Frost was one of the American poets with a unique fate. He was the leading master of modernist poetry who portrayed the hopeless struggle of man with a chaotic and meaningless universe. The poet’s moral beliefs corresponded to the epoch he lived in. Frost was a true philosopher who aimed to find the wisdom of life. Robert Frost worked within prevailing social attitudes, moral beliefs, and cultural dispositions of his time, reflecting them in his poetry.
The Prevailing Social Attitudes
The prevailing social attitudes of Robert Frost were adapted to the historical events that occurred at the end of the 19th century. After the Civil War of the North and the South, America, freed from slavery, having removed obstacles to the development of capitalism, had entered a period of economic prosperity and colonial conquests. There was intensive development of the western territories, which were populated by millions of emigrants from Europe. Robert Frost grew under the belief in the phenomenon of the “American dream,” which guaranteed every citizen a paradise in a new country (Hart 89). Nevertheless, tragic collisions were maturing in the society, to which literature gave the first response.
The period is famous for the emergence of a new literary trend, realism. At the turn of the 19th-20th century, Robert Frost actively collaborated with the press (Richardson 39). Moreover, the aggravation of social contradictions engendered democratic movements. Among them, the farmer movement of the ’70s and ’90s was the most significant (Richardson 49). The movement of “Mud Razors,” which united progressive writers, poets, journalists, scientists, and students, similarly caused a big stir after its participants publicly denounced the negative aspects of American life (Hart 91). The movement of African Americans for equal rights also expanded.
Consequently, society cultivated such values as individualism, freedom of a human, and freedom of competition. At the end of the 19th century, naturalism and realism prevailed in American literature (Monteiro 70). Furthermore, Robert Frost created a remarkable panorama of the depth of realism of the people’s life, reflecting the tragic disintegration of traditional farming in America. However, he did this without losing either optimism or belief in democratic ideals. Moreover, his closeness to the people allowed Frost to comprehend the historical consequences of the changes in the 20th century (Hart 120).
Therefore, Frost’s poetry supported a social attitude prevailing at that time. Although the world seemed to Frost to be harmonious and integral, the poet did not pass by social problems. He wrote about the hardened proprietors and bitter share of rural farm laborers, e.g. The Death of a Farm Laborer, and racial prejudices in The Last Indian (Monteiro 72). Loving his country, he welcomed the progress of humankind, affirmed the right of people to choose their destiny, and glorified peace in the world.
Moral Beliefs of Frost's Time
The moral beliefs of Robert Frost correspond to the epoch of his time: despite the epoch of hardships in American history, the poet was full of optimism, humanism, kindness, and filial love for the American land. Robert Frost refers to those masters whose voice seems to be soft, the verse does not shine with novelty, and the force of the impact of creativity is determined by sincerity and the ability to penetrate at the first sight the most ordinary phenomena (Hart 114).
Amid the upheavals of the century, wars, and revolutions, Frost simply and thoughtfully talked with his reader about completely unpretentious but truly eternal things, i.e. about nature, love, friendship, life, and prosaic details of rural life. He is characterized by kindness to people, humanity, and accessibility, which has nothing to do with the desire for cheap popularity. Ultimately, these are the most attractive features of Frost’s poetry. The son of a farmer, he always communicated with the people and nature of New England and sang in his poems.
Cultural Dispositions of Frost's Time
The cultural dispositions of Robert Frost’s time were one of the most difficult periods in the development of American and world culture. This time was marked by world wars, social cataclysms, national conflicts, scientific and technological progress, and so on. All of these had determined the multifaceted nature and inconsistency of sociocultural processes, which led to the search for new artistic systems, methods, and flows. With all the diversity of cultural phenomena of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, two main trends in artistic development can be emphasized such as realism and modernism (Monteiro 81). Thus, Robert Frost’s poetry was realistic. Moreover, his realism was locally colored, which he reflected in his poetic language, making it colloquial and comprehensible. His poems were full of landscape sketches, philosophical meditation, household episodes, and small short stories in verse.
Furthermore, Frost’s outlook on philosophy also emerged due to the cultural dispositions of the era. Among the philosophical schools of the twentieth century, undoubtedly, one of the most famous was pragmatism. The central concept of pragmatism is understood as an experience of a person that he/she obtains in all forms of livelihoods and all manifestations of life. Frost was a true philosopher who aimed to find the wisdom of life. He was a dualist, who considered that reality was created equally from material and spiritual elements (Monteiro 56). Frost had a full conviction in the potential divinity of man.
To conclude, Robert Frost occupies a special place in American poetry. His optimism and belief in democratic ideals are the main themes of all his poems. The historical events and cultural dispositions contributed significantly to the development of his values and beliefs. The poet was a true philosopher who aimed to find the wisdom of life. His humanism, kindness, and filial love for the American land distinguished him from the others.