How do I account for the feelings that I am having? This paper will provide my reflections and insights into the poem “The Span of Life” by Robert Frost by describing why it caught my interest as the reader, and then evaluating the meaning of the poem using the reader-response approach to literary criticism. This work immediately captured my interest because of the powerful image that Frost creates of an old dog on the floor. I am a dog lover and I have always had them around.
I know what an old dog looks like laying on the floor; tired, grey, and frail.
Frost has “given us first a sound picture of the dog near the end of his life” (Wood, 2009, para. 4). With this image I am free to determine what that dog means to me as the reader. In addition, after reading the next line I am completely drawn in by the powerful symbolism that is used to represent the actual span of life that we all shall experience (Clugston, 2010).
This is where all the emotions kick in. So, what aspects of this poem make me feel the way that I do about it? The following will describe that process.
The reader-response approach to literary criticism focuses on making connections and reflecting on them. In ddition to making connections to a work of literature, the feelings that are felt must be accounted for. According to this approach, I must never solely depend on my feelings and opinions; they must be linked to the literary aspects within the work (Clugston, 2010).
This approach offers endless interpretive possibilities by the reader and there is no right or wrong way to interpret a literary work (Reader response criticism, 1997). Clugston (2010) suggests that I use “connecting” questions to help develop a critical analysis of the poem. According to these questions, I should first consider what captured my imagination.
As described above, it was simply the powerful imagery and symbolism. Next, I should consider if what I felt was an emotion, a curiosity, or an aspiration. With the particular poem I was overtaken first by curiosity of what this poem could mean, and then by emotion, especially when I sat back and thought about what Frost was trying to convey. Imagining the dog barking backwards I see myself looking into the past. He used that image of the old dog to evoke thoughts and emotions about the “inevitable life cycle that both the dog and the reader face” (Clugston, 2010, What literature contributes to our lives, para. 4).
Now, it must be determined if the above mentioned involves a desire to escape the past or present. In this case, I want to escape both. I don’t want to deal with my death moving forward, and I am questioning what I have done in the past. So, what motivation or change did my connection with this piece of literature create in my thinking and my relationships? “I can remember when he was a pup” had me thinking about my past and the life I have already lived. Then, I immediately begin thinking about my mortality. Have I lived enough and in a way that I would want to be remembered if I die tomorrow?
Do the people that I love know that I do? Moving forward, how can I make my life better? This poem brought about so much thought for me. Now, what connections can I make between this work and others that I have read and do those connections reinforce things I know or add new insights? In this case it was more about adding new insights than connections. With those sixteen short words I was brought into a world that I really have never experienced from the written page. Experiencing the emotions from this work has a lot to do with my life at this time.
It was easier for me to relate to death and dying more than I ever have. This poem added new insights to my life more than anything else as is evidenced by all of the above analysis. In conclusion, “The Span of Life” gripped me, held me close, and brought me to a place in my mind I have never experienced from the written page. This paper provided my reflections and insight into the poem by Robert Frost by describing what caught my interest, and then evaluating the meaning of the poem using the reader-response approach to literary criticism.
I look forward to using the reader-response approach in future criticisms, as I highly value the thought process that it encourages.