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Use of Dramatic Dialogue in Robert Frost’s Poetry

With reference to” The Death of Hired Man “and “Home Burial”.

A Paper prepared by:

Mr. Mohan H.Kalawate

Lecturer in English

S.I.T.C.O.E. Yadrav

Use of Dramatic Dialogue in Robert Frost’s Poetry


Robert Frost, in his poems has practiced some techniques in order to render the artistic
effect of those poems. His famous collection of poems;”North of Boston (1913)”is known
as A Book of People, because many of poems in this collection are about people, their
lives etc .His technique of using human relationships, especially the husband-wife rela-
tionship as a theme of his poems is notable and the very purpose of this is to dramatize
the’ marital differences’ and for the same he exploited some devices such as dramatic
monologues, dramatic dialogues etc. Robert Frost has used five types of dialogues, so
for the proper understanding of his poetry it is obligatory to know how he used these in
his poems.

Prior to all his use of dramatic monologue. Dramatic monologue is a type of lyric poem
that was perfected by Robert Browning, in which a single person utters the speech and
makes up the whole of the poem. Robert Browning” My Last Duchess “is the best ex-
ample of dramatic monologue. Likewise in Robert Frost’s dramatic monologues which
he used in his lyrics and meditative poems, he uses highly dramatized speaker. This
speaker holds attitudes and feelings that we are expected to credit. We tend to identify it
as that of the poet himself. In Robert Frost’s “A Servant to Servants” the depressed, half
mad woman speaking of her inner voice about serving men and of asylums, makes us
to look behind the scene to Frost’s that is the implied poet’s judgments of his character.
Either he himself is speaking or as a creator stands apart lets the characters speak for
themselves.

Second type of dialogue that he used arises from his extensive use of irony, the inter-
play between tow meanings as a struggle between two voices or selves. Such kind of
struggle or ironic doubleness of sense implies ‘a muted dialogue’ between two selves
within a single persona. e.g.

Better go down dignified,

With bough ten friendship at your side

Than none at all.” Provide. Provide.”


In above lines, the ironic is so sarcastic. The reader tends to separate the speaker dis-
tinctly from the poet after reading the words ‘provide, provide’.

Third type of dialogue also arises from the symbolic meaning or doubleness of meaning
e.g. the dualistic allegories like ‘Road Not Taken” has in it the extreme use of symbolic
effects which produce conflicting meanings and feelings which seems like dialogue.

The fourth kind of dialogue reveals Frost’s more broadly imaginative, highly sensitive
self to surface and be identified as distinctly poetic voice in the literary tone. (Ref. “Rob-
ert Frost: An Anthology edited by Manorama Trikha > John Perry’s article: ‘The Voice
dialogues in Robert Frost.’)

The fifth and most important type of dialogue is dramatic dialogue J.L.Styan defines dia-
logue as a dramatic speech. In that sense dramatic dialogue is dialogue which creates
dramatic situation. As far as the use of dramatic dialogue in Frost’s poetry is concerned
“The Death of Hired Man” and “Home Burial” are important poems. Both of the poems
have the use of dramatic dialogues which play a vital role. It gives us the clear cut idea
about human relationships, their emotions, their conflict etc.

”The Death of Hired Man “is a narrative poem in which the function of dramatic dialogue
is rather crucial this poem may be regarded as a short drama because whole poem is
nothing but the conversation between husband and wife, apart from these two charac-
ters Warren and Marry respectively there is another character Silas the hired man but
he does not appear in the whole poem, even we can understand about him through the
exchange of dialogues between the couple. So here dialogues’ function is to give the
information about character. The couple’s attitude about the old man creates the con-
flicting situation. Warren’s practical attitude and anger about Silas reveals when he
says:

“What good is he? who else will harbor him

At his age for the little he can do?”


Vise versa, his wife Mary is quite sympathetic towards Silas; she tries to console her
husband by saying:

“Be Kind”

So, here dramatic dialogue exhibits feelings before us such as anger and sympathy
which can be regarded next function of dramatic dialogue.

There is an ongoing debate between husband and wife. Both they differ from each other
in their way of thinking. This conflict of thoughts and exchange of philosophical opinions
create dramatic situation e.g.

Warren defines home as:

“Home is the place where, when you

Have to go there they have take you in.”

Mary further adds:

I should have called it;

“Something you somehow haven’t to deserve”

These dialogues show us about Warren’s ‘practical’ attitude and Mary’s somewhat ‘spir-
itual’ because she thinks home as a heaven where Silas had came to die.

At the end of this poem, poet has created ambiguous situation. Mary felt that Silas
would die soon and requests Warren to know about Silas’ plans regarding the farm and
further she says he must not ridicule on him. She says:

“He has a plan; You mustn’t laugh at him,

He may not speak of it, and then he may,

I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud

Will hit or miss the moon.”


The underlined dialogues disclose that somehow she thought about Silas’ death sym-
bolically the small sailing cloud stands for ‘death’ and if it will hit or miss the moon she
want to know. After some time Warren returns and she just says:

“Warren?’

And then “Dead “was all he answered. Through these dialogues we get the final truth
and that is Silas’ death.

“Home Burial” is another poem which is worth noting for use of dramatic dialogues. In
this poem also there is an interaction between husband and wife. As it is mentioned ear-
lier that Frost’s main purpose behind using dramatic dialogues is to show the ‘marital
differences’ and it becomes clear after analyzing the poem. Both the husband and wife
are emotionally blind. The husband’s practical view about his child’s death simply re-
flects when he describes the mound of his child as:

There are three stones of slate and one of marble,

Broad shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight

On the side hill, we haven’t to mind those,

But I understand; it is not the stones,

But the child’s mound.”

When he utters these dialogues he doesn’t understand the situation of the mother. And
we can feel it when she says:

“Don’t don’t, don’t, don’t.”

So, the “emotional gulf” between the couple is presented by using the dramatic dia-
logues and this gulf widens after as time passes. And for the reason Frost has used
such devices in order explain to the excessive intensity of the emotions.
 Conclusion-

To sum up it can be said that Frost has intention to put the “marital differences” and
the complexity between human relationship; the conflict, and the conflict is better under-
stood with the help of “ dialogues “and Frost has done the same thing by using dramatic
dialogues in the poem.

 Reference:
 Robert Frost: An Anthology, edited by Manorama Trikha.
 Drama: Theory and History.