Below, you’ll find part of an analysis of ‘A Soldier’ by Robert Frost.
This includes a breakdown of the stanzas, an insight into the speaker + voice of the poem, and an exploration of the themes and deeper meanings. This is only a quick overview to help you get to grips with the poem; you can access a full in-depth breakdown of the poem below.
Check the full poem on this link.
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- Story + Summary
- Speaker + Voice
- Language Feature Analysis
- Form and Structure Analysis
- Attitudes + Messages
- Themes + Deeper Ideas
- Key Quotations
- Extra tasks to complete by yourself
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STORY / SUMMARY
Lines 1-3: We are told about the plight of a soldier – he is lying on the ground as if he has been ‘hurled’ through the air and landed. His body doesn’t move and he doesn’t rise up, he stays lying down even when the dew covers him overnight, or when he starts to ‘rust’ (decay). He is like a thrown lance that missed the target, instead of crashing into the ground and coming to rest in the dust.
Lines 3-6: If we try to trace the lance’s movement across the earth and see nothing worth aiming for, i.e. no target or reason why it was thrown, it’s because we’re looking for answers in the world on earth, whereas the answer is actually spiritual or in the heavens. We forget that if we aim for some earthly and immediate reason, we’ll always miss the true target of perfection.
Lines 7-11: As we throw missiles, they land back down to earth because they are ‘fitted to the sphere’, the law of gravity controls them and forces them to fall back to the ground. They tear through grass and through the surface of the earth when they fall, breaking themselves in the process. The scraping sound as the metal of the lance crashes into the stone of the earth ‘make[s] us cringe’, because it is painful to hear the missile failing to hit its mark.
Lines 12-14: Despite this, we know that the same force or ‘obstacle’ that caused the physical body to crash back to earth propelled the spirit towards the sky. If the intended target was a star that ‘showed or shone’ in the sky, then the actual endpoint of the soul is even greater than a person on earth could have imagined.
SPEAKER / VOICE
The speaker talks abstractly, rather than specifically about any particular soldier or war. The vague title reinforces this, because it refers to an unnamed and unspecified soldier. As well as the indefinite pronoun ‘a’ demonstrating that it could be one of many possible soldiers. Instead of commenting on specific wars that have just passed, Frost uses the poem to explore the concepts of war and heroism, making us realise that the tragedy of a soldier’s death can be far less significant than the good they brought to the world through their efforts. The speaker appears to have a highly patriotic tone; he believes that a soldier’s soul ascends straight to the heavens at the moment of death. Their heroic sacrifices live on through the memory of others and the positive impact they made on earth, and their soul unquestionably joins God for the good that they’ve done.
- Transience vs Permanence
- Chivalry / Honour / Heroism
- Individuality vs Collectivism
- Science and Religion