Robert Frost’s poem “Fire and Ice” is a serious take on the idea of apocalypse. Frost expresses a philosophical view of the idea of the world coming to an end whether by human violence and stupidity or by an act of nature or fate.Frost indicates that human “desire” is one of the aspects of the world that might lead to its eventual destruction. The image of ice, however, is also used to show that human indifference or even the “coldness” of human rationality could lead to destruction. The rhyme scheme of the poem evokes a kind of sing-song feeling that might lead some readers to believe that the poem is semi-humorous or even tongue-in-cheek, but in actuality the rhyme scheme of the poem is used ironically to show that the simplistic reasons for the destruction of humanity or the world are rooted in humanity’s collective inability to rise above or grow beyond childish ambitions and needs. There is really nothing playful or humorous about the poem. It stands as a cautionary statement about the delicacy of human life and the need for human beings to develop their emotional empathy while also diminishing their tendencies toward embracing selfish passions and ambitions.
Much of Frost’s work deals with the interplay of individualism and collective society. This is a major theme in modernist literature. His poem “Mending Wall” for example makes an ironic commentary on the fragmentation of community in modern life. The poem “The Road not Taken” explores the idea of solitude as it contrasts with the need to be part of society. One of the main concerns of Modernist writing is to explore the simultaneous need for social protection and the need for individual freedom. This conflict is shown in Susan Glaspell’s play “Trifles” where the needs of women are described as being overlooked by the men who design and run society. It is also evident in Sherwood Anderson’s story “Hands” where an innocent teacher is accused of sexually fondling students. The central concern of Modernism is to explore both the positive and negative impacts of human society and also to explore the psychological demands and influences that are part of existing in a collective space. The Modernist writers made an appeal to the idea of freedom and individuality while also recognizing the need for social structures and constraints on individual behavior.