Bereft Robert Frost’s poem “Bereft” suggests that sometimes a man’s normal feelings of loss can become so intense that he must struggle to gain control over his emotions or they will destroy him. By using figurative language, Frost establishes the speaker’s state of mind, the circumstances surrounding it, and the consequences of it in only 16 lines. By using metaphors, personification and careful word choice, the author reveals the speaker’s state of mind, his emotional conflict and the reason for them in the first five lines of the poem. The speaker’s state of mind is revealed in the title of the poem which consists of one word–Bereft. Since, bereft, by definition means deprived of something; lacking something needed or expected; or suffering the death of a loved one, the reader’s thoughts are led to the words loss or grief. Considering this, the first two lines “Where had I heard this wind before / Change like this to a deeper roar?” have both literal and figurative meanings. On a literal level the lines indicate a change in weather. The wind is getting stronger; A storm is brewing. If the wind is interpreted to represent grief-understood from the title, then figuratively, the lines are a metaphor comparing the wind to the speaker’s grief. Because the wind is literally intensifying, figuratively, the speaker’s grief is intensifying as well. The first line also reveals that the speaker has experienced this change in weather before, for he says, “Where have I heard this wind before.” In the next line, “What would it take my standing there for,” the word it refers to the speaker’s grief. Here the author personifies the emotion by giving it the human ability to assess the speaker’s behavior, and thereby the implied power to act on its own evaluation of the speaker’s actions. The speaker’s conflict with himself is revealed when he says, “Holding open a restive door,” Again the author’s choice of words is significant to the interpretation of the poem. The definition of restive is difficult to control. And since it is used to modify the door which is a symbol of decision, the line implies that the speaker is struggling to gain control over his emotions; it further suggests that because of the conflict, the speaker must make a decision. Because of the implications of the previous lines, the next line of the poem: “Looking downhill to a frothy shore?” implies the decision the speaker must make is whether or not to comit sucide. The circumstances leading to the speaker’s dilemma are revealed in the next five lines of the poem by the author’s use of metaphors, symbolism, and imagery. For instnace, when the speaker says, “Summer was past and day was past,” he is literally stating that it is an autumn evening, but figuratively, the line suggests that the speaker is reflecting on how he came to be “looking down at a frothy shore.” This is reinforced by the next line when the speaker says, “Somber clouds in the west were massed.” Clouds are often used in all types of literature to suggest worries, depression, or something bothersome. In this instance, clouds represent the speaker’s memories, and along with the adjective somber, which means melancholy, the memories are either of something sad, or they produce sad feelings. The Clouds are massed, so the combination of the two lines suggests a building of emotions over a period of time. The following line “Out in the porch’s sagging floor” describes something that was once sturdy, but is now bending from constant pressure. The sagging porch represents the speaker’s will to live or his spirit. Next, the speaker says, “Leaves got up in a coil and hissed, / Blindly struck at my knee and missed.” The first of these two lines is a metaphor which compares the wind with death, for it is the wind which lifts the leaves into a coil. The visual image of the coiled leaves along with the stated hissing sound suggests a snake which is a symbol of death. The leaves represent the loved one that died. The second line of the two creates a visual image of the leaves striking out at the speaker. Since the leaves represent the speaker’s lost loved one, and grief is the wind which lifts the leaves into the shape of a snake, the suggestion of the lines together is that the speaker’s inability to accept the death of this person may destroy him.
The final six lines of the poem reveal the speaker’s fear of his grief, his awareness of what it is leading him to, and his revelation that only one thing can save him from himself. The speaker’s fear is suggested in the line “Something sinister in the tone.” The word sinister implies evil–something to be feared, and the tone he is referring to is the sound of the leaves in the wind. Having established that the leaves represent his dead loved one, and that the wind represents his grief, the line suggests that his thoughts of this person is something to fear; Additionally, it shows that the speaker is aware that his emotions can harm him. In the speaker’s next statement: “Told me my secret must be known,” the secret is that the speaker doesn’t want to live without this person in his life. The following lines suggest the speaker’s vulnerability: “Word I was in the house alone, / Somehow must have gotten abroad,” Considering the previous personification of grief, the lines imply that grief knows of the speaker’s secret wish to die and plans to take advantage of it. Since the speaker is alone in the house, grief has the opportunity to overpower him. The poem concludes: “Word I was in my life alone, / Word I had no one left by God.” The first of the two lines suggests he is alone with his conflict; only he can make the decision. When viewed with the second line, it could also suggest that the speaker has lost his faith in God. The final line says that there is nothing that can save the speaker from himself except God. It implies that faith in God would give him the strength necessary to cope with his grief.