Fire and Ice By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

ROBERT FROST

Fire and Ice Summary

Explanation of the Poem

Stanza 1

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.

Explanation

The poet is analysing about the end of the world. The poet provides and deals with two possible causes for the end of the world. He considers the age-old question of whether the world will end in fire or in ice. Both the two reasons contrast each other and are equally opposite to each other. On one side of the debate are tohse people who are in favour of fire. They believe that it will be the heat and the passion, which will lead the humanity, the world, to end. On the other side of the debate are those people who favour ice and feel that it will be the ‘ice’ which will freeze the world.

Frost is providing a powerful statement on the subject of greed and jealously. He is saying that above anything else, even hatred, which is the trail of humanity, is most likely to lead the world to its demise.

Stanza 2

But if it had to perish twice,
I think, I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Explanation

The poet is very much sure of the destruction of the humanity. He first talks about the destruction caused by fire and in case this fails, then ice will result into hatred that will end humanity one day. Frost foes on to discuss, in a more understated manner, the power of hate, which is symbolised in the poem by ice. Hate, according to the speaker, is just as powerful as desire. While desire consumes, quickly, hate is just as great and powerful. In fact, by ending  the poem with the concept of hate.

Frost directs the reader to the shy yet restrained devastation that hate can produce. Hate can occur and linger in people’s minds and hearts for years, sometimes even lifetimes. Hate is presented as having the ability to lead to the destruction of the world if it were to happen for a second time, again providing a powerful warning against this human fallacy (misunderstanding).

Central Idea of Poem

The central idea around which the entire poem revolves is that only love, equality, mutual understanding and sympathy for one and all can help in establishing peace on the earth. The poet mentions that both the ice and fire can bring probable end to this world. The poet talks about how fire represents desire and can therefore be a cause of the end of the world. He also mentions ice as a second issue to symbolise that the coldness and indifference towards on another will also be enough  to bring an end to this world. Too much fire and passion can quickly consume a relationship. while cold indifference and hate can be equally destructive.

Poetic Devices Used in the Poem

Alliteration : Repetition of initial consonant sounds in the same line.

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
I hold those who favour fire

Paradox : A true statement but which seems untrue.

  • But if it had to perish twice

Symbolism

  • Fire – a symbol of desire
  • Ice – a symbol of hate

Imagery : A figure of speech where an object, person or situation has another meaning other than its literal meaning.

  • Fire and ice carry deep connotations.
  • Fire elicits the feeling of heat and light, but also burning and pain.
  • Ice elicits the feeling of coldness, but also indifference and intolerance.

Rhyme Scheme

abaabcbcb

Word Meanings

desire : wish

hold : to take side, favour

favour : incline towards

perish : die

suffice : be sufficient

destruction : wiping out, vooting out

Questions and Answers

NCERT Solutions

Thinking about the Poem (page 15)

Question 1 : There are many ideas about how the world will ‘end’. Do you think the world will end some day? Have you ever thought what would happen if the Sun gets so hot that it ‘bursts’ or grows colder and colder?

Answer : There are definitely many ideas about how the world will ‘end’. I do believe that the world will end some day as anything that has a beginning will have an ending. This stands true for the world also. If the sun got so hot that it bursts, the whole of the earth would perish immediately as no part of the earth can bear the heat of that intensity. But if the sun grew colder and colder, everything will come to an end as without sunlight, life will end.

Question 2 : For Frost, what do ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ stand for? Here are some ideas:

greed, avarice, cruelty, lust, conflict, fury, intolerance, rigidity, insensitivity, coldness, indifference, hatred

Answer : ‘Fire’ stand for greed, avarice, lust, conflict and fury.

‘Ice’ stands for cruelty, intolerance, rigidity, insensitivity, coldness, indifference and hatred.

Question 3 : What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?  How does it help in bringing out the contrasting ideas in the poem?

Answer : The rhyme scheme of the poem is – a b a a b c b c b

This rhyme scheme helps in bringing out the contrasting ides of ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ presented in the poem. The poet mentions that both fire and ice are probable ends of this world. He talks about how fire represents desire and can therefore bring an end to the world.

Frost also mentions Ice in between to symbolise that the coldness and indifference towards one another will be enough to end the world. In second stanza, he says that he knows of enough hate in the world to be sure that even destruction through ice would be sufficient to bring about the end of the world.

Extra Questions

Extract Based Questions

Read the following extracts carefully and choose the correct option.

Question 1 :

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.

i) What can be the cause of world’s destruction as per these lines?

a) Fire

b) Ice

c) Both (a) and (b)

d) None of these

ii) According to the poet fire refers to 

a) Violent desires

b) passions

c) jealousy

d) all of these

iii) What does ice symbolise?

a) Indifference

b) Love

c) Sympathy

d) Passions

iv) What message does the poet want to convey through this poem?

a) Everything is transitory

b) Life is unpredictable

c) Death is inevitable

d) Both (a) and (c)

Answer : i) c) Both (a) and (b)

ii) d) All of these

iii) a) Indifference

iv) (d) Both (a) and (c)

Question 2 : 

But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice

i) What does ‘It’ here refer to?

a) Fire

b) Ice

c) Earth

d) World

ii) The word ‘perish’ means………….

a) decay

b) loose one’s life

c) appear

d) improve

iii) Here the rhyming scheme used by the poet is 

a) ab ab

b) abc ab

c) ababa

d) aabb

iv) What does the poet want to convey through this poem?

a) We should not be greedy

b) All humans should check their desires and hatred

c) restrain our desires and love fellow beings

d) Both (a) and (c)

Answer : i) (d) World

ii) (a) decay

iii) (c) ababa

iv) d) Both (a) and (c)

Short Questions and Answers

Question 1 : For Frost, what do ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ stand for?

Answer : The word ‘fire’ stands for desire. In the poem it indicates all types of greed and lust. In today’s world, mankind’s greed is endangering the very existence of the planet Earth. The word ‘ice’ in the poem indicates hatred and indifference which is as cold as ‘ice’. Cold indifference and hate can be equally destructive.

Question 2 : How has Frost brought out the contrasting ideas in the poem?

Answer : ‘Desire’ propels (moves) us in hot pursuit of something, hence, it is compared with fire. ‘Hatred’ makes us cold towards other’s feelings. The coldness of ice can numb our senses. Similarly, the coldness of our hearts can numb our kindness. That is why ‘hatred’ has been compared with ice.

Question 3 : Write down the two different views about the end of the world?

Answer : There is a debate that is going on about the end of the world. People say that the world will end in fire or in ice. The world is transitory, nothing is perennial (permanent) in this universe.

Question 4 : How does Robert Frost cautions the common man?

Answer : Man is selfish, avaricious (greedy), lustful, indifferent and hateful. Robert Frost cautions the common man and says that he should not forget the bitter reality that everything in this world is transitory and death is inevitable (can not be stopped).

Question 5 : Why does the poet hold with those who favour fire?

Answer : The poet takes side of those who believe that the world will be destroyed by fire. Frost connects fire with desire. According to the poet, desire is powerful and can bring quick end. Moreover, the fact that he has had person experience with desire leads him to first conclude that the world will end by fire.

Question 6 : Write the sum and substance of the poem ‘Fire and Ice’.

Answer : The crystal clear message that the poet is trying to give is that nothing in this world is eternal. The poet first concludes that the world must end in fire after considering his personal experience with desire and passion, the emotions of fire. But at the same time, ice or hatred can also bring total destruction of this world. We should thus, not forget this supreme reality and keep ourselves able all selfish matters.

Question 7 : Briefly write about the ideas about how the world will end. 

Answer : The world will end as a direct result of either fire or ice. Some scientists believe that the world would be incinerated (destroyed) from its fiery core, while others were convinced that the coming ice age would destroy all living things on Earth’s surface. Frost introduces a more emotional side, associating desire with fire and hatred with ice. The poem, thus, does not allow for any other opinions in the black and white debate between fire and ice.

Question 8 : To say that for destruction ice is also great for the poet, what does ‘ice’ stand for? How is it sufficient to bring destruction?

Answer : ‘Ice’ symbolises hatred. Hate is just as powerful as desire. While desire consumes quickly, hate can occur and linger (stay) in people’s minds and hearts for years and sometimes even lifetimes. Hate consumes the haters perhaps even more than the person or group hated and it can ruin lives. Hate can, thus, be very destructive and sufficient to bring destruction.

Question 9 : ‘But if it had to perish twice’. How will the world perish twice?

Answer : According to the poet, the world will end due to the ‘fire’, which symbolises desire. But if the world had to end twice then it will be due to the hatred symbolised by ‘ice’. The poet feels that there is enough hatred in the world that is spreading among the people. This hatred will end the world one day.

Question 10 : Which age old question does the poem revolves around?

Answer : The poem revolves around the age old question of whether the world will end in fire or in ice. This is similar to another age old question, whether it would be preferable to freeze to death or burn to death. The poet determines that either option would achieve its purpose sufficiently well.

Long Questions and Answers

Question 1 : Discuss how extreme beahviour can hasten the end of the world with respect to ‘Fire and Ice’.

Answer : ‘Fire’ symbolises desire and ‘Ice’ symbolises hatred. Desire is a kind of intense love or want that focuses people on getting and possessing and acquiring. Our society is full of people who spend their lives working to get a bigger and better TV, a more stylish car or a more extravagant house. This kind of desire can lead people to destruction in the form of bankruptcy or even broken relationships. Frost’s poem speaks on the issue of greed corrupting people and even society. The power of hate, which is symbolised by ice, is just as great as desire. While desire consumes quickly, hate produces shy yet restrained devastation. For instance, hate is the root cause of racism and war. It can linger in people’s mind for lifetimes.

Moreover, it consumes the hater even more than the person being hated. It thus, ruins lives.

Question 2 : The poem ‘Fire and Ice’, carried with it very deep thematic ideas. Elaborate on these darkest traits of humanity.

Answer : Frost presents the two of the darkest traits of humanity; the capacity to hate and the capacity to be consumed by lust or desire. Of the two , he attributes the greater of the two evils, is desire. In giving desire the foremost position with regard to the destruction of the world, Frost is providing a powerful statement on the subject of greed and jealousy, saying that above all else, desire is the trait of humanity that is most likely to lead to its demise. Desire represents the greatest problem that attributes to the cause of the war. Frost then attributes hatred with the same capacity to do harm.

However, he lessens the relative importance of hatred but still presents it as having the ability to lead to the destruction of the world if it were to happen for a second time.

Question 3 : The poet presents two reasons which will lead to the destruction of the humanity. What values do you garner from the two possible causes provided by him?

Answer : The poet provides and deals with two possible causes for the end of the world. He points more towards the emotional and sentimental side of the issue. As for him, fire denotes deep passion and burning desire, while ice is highlighted for its icy cold and hatred side of the emotions.

He favours both the arguments and says that either the deep burning passion or the cold hatred and jealousy factor will push the people to walk on the path of destruction. The poet is sure of this destruction of humanity.

He first talks about the destruction because of fire and in case this fails, then ice will end the world. The love that people have for one another will turn into hatred. In race of climbing up and outdo one another, people will tend to hate each other. These negative emotions will become so strong that it will surpass all the love and lead to the destruction of humanity.

Question 4 : How will the world end? Support your answer with scientific explanation.

Answer : According to the scientists, the two reasons for the destruction of the world will be either fiery core or the ice age.

Some scientists believed that the world would be incinerated (destroyed) from its fiery core, while others were convinced that a coming ice age would destroy all living things on the earth’s surface. In other words, either the deep heat or fire under the earth beds will lead to natural calamities like volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis which will one day end the world, or the melting of ice from the snowy mountains due to global warming will shrink the world. As a result, one day the entire world will die of the icy water. Frost, thus, tries to warn people against the two greatest problems being faced by humanity and the consequences of human vices and increased effectiveness.