Nostalgia in the Works of Robert Frost

Nostalgia in the Works of Robert Frost - 1 Cavion Harris...

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1 Cavion Harris Professor Kundu American Literature II November 27, 2007 Nostalgia in the Works of Robert Frost: A Close Reading of “Birches” and “Mending Wall” Nostalgia used to be associated with an illness that people were treated for. It was said that So and so had died of nostalgia, that they could not cope with the world around them. Nostalgia is an aching for the remembered past—a “sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past” (OED). It holds within it a wanting to escape from the present life and enter into another reality, thus nostalgia is a disposition in which someone has broken with reality, it is a longing for the unreal, since the now is regrettable and undesirable, unwanted and displaced. It is a reflection of the present times. Since the present is so bad, let us go to another place where the worries of the present days do not exist, where they do not change our outlook on life. Nostalgia is a refusal to accept reality, a refusal to accept the condition of the world—the human condition as the way things are. It is a longing to go back to simpler times, times of innocence, times of freedom from the responsibilities of this world. There is an inner struggle in the mind of a nostalgic person; there is an awareness of the struggles of modern life, the undesirable life, the life that has not lived up to one’s expectations, therefore let us go back to the way things used to be. Many people who are nostalgic refer to their childhood days as the good times. The world seemed much simpler during the times of youth, the times of innocence, of ignorance and discovery. There was the type of innocence that kept one away from the realities of adult life, the pressures of society’s constructions and the recognition of one’s own desires and flaws.
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2 Childhood is seen to be the embodiment of the perfect times where one could fill one’s days with thoughts of play. There is a comfort in the “not knowing” of life’s misfortunes, of our own depressions. Not knowing one’s own place and responsibility in the world lessens the impact of reality on the mind. There is a sexual innocence associated with childhood, as children play without the recognition of their own bodies, of the effects their bodies have on the world and on people’s lives. So there is a desire to escape from the pressures of modern life and retreat into the childhood days. Childhood play in “Birches” is symbolized by the reflections of baseball as the childhood pastime, representing the innocent youth, of teaching oneself, of becoming a man. It is this transition that makes the poem a reflection on adulthood. The speaker sees the trees lying down and reminisces about who he wishes he could be. The poem is nostalgic in the desires of the speaker to go back to the “becoming” phase of adolescent life, then one may be able to change what one becomes. When I see birches bend to left and right
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This note was uploaded on 11/23/2008 for the course ENGL 3132 taught by Professor Kundu during the Spring '08 term at Georgia Southern University .

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Nostalgia in the Works of Robert Frost - 1 Cavion Harris...

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