Isolation – Edward Thomas and Robert Frost
Whilst Thomas depicts a nomadic individual who wanders the countryside and who, In contrast to Frosts character embraces his isolation, choosing instead a “brown bitch” for his only company To begin with, Thomas writes in rhyming couplets which create an on-going effect of the individuals story also reflecting the oral tradition of the English countryside. He also writes in narrative lyric which gives this poem a song like undercurrent carrying the story fluidly and seamlessly.
AOMWN is a narrative poem with an irregular rhyme scheme, Frost here reflects the conflict between man and nature as death approaches. Even though the poem is irregular in rhyme, frost makes use of internal rhyme such as assonance and alliteration which may illustrate how the character feels comfortable inside but has a fear of the natural environment, feeling almost as if it is against him. Secondly, both poets explicitly use the idea of isolation in their poems.
In Man and Dog the sensory imagery through “then he went on against the north-east wind” depicts the harshness of the nomadic lifestyle showing how he is isolated form society. In contrast in AOMWN sibilance through “that gathers on the pane in empty rooms” conveys the silence of the landscape, while the adjective reinforces that the man is isolated from others. In Man and Dog the isolation is reinforced through, “She goes everywhere with me”, this man is isolated from others, his only companion is a dog and it almost seems that he chooses the dog over others enjoying the company he has with this dog.
Similarly the isolation is also reinforced through, “All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him”, the adverbs here conveys the hostility this individual experiences, like nature is against him reinforcing the isolation and how this individual is separated from others. In Man and Dog even though the individual is isolated, he recognises that others are worse off than he is, he recognises that things could be a lot worse for him and this is conveyed through the line, “Many a man sleeps worse tonight than I shall”.
In AOMWN this contrasts to, “What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze”, the alliteration shows that the man is at odds with his environment, that this is not a place for a vulnerable old man and this further isolates him from others. In addition to this each poet describes a different response to isolation, Frost depicts an individual who is comfortable being isolated and makes the most of the situation which he finds himself in whereas Thomas depicts an individual who no longer wants to be isolated from others.
In Man and Dog the line, “I’ll get no shakedown with that bedfellow from farmers”, the man cuts himself off from others, he chooses his isolation. In contrast to this in AOMWN the litote, “A light he was to no one but himself” implies that it is not by choice that the man chooses to be isolated, but rather through his inability to communicate to others. In addition to this in Man and Dog a “leaf-coloured robin watched”, the visual imagery shows how the man is close to nature, he makes the best of his isolation and is content in his isolation.
In contrast to this in AOMWN the individual “consigned to the moon” showing his preference to the night, this preference is a symbol of death, he is not content in his isolation. Both poets write about each individuals company in their poems. In AOMWN the individual is “consigned to the moon” which shows how this man feels that he should only come out at night. He feels that it is his only option, he does not prefer to be lonely like the individual in Man and Dog, it is his circumstances which have left him in this situation.
This contrasts starkly to Man and Dog, “she’s not much use to me, but she’s still company” the speaker chooses the companionship in the form of a “small brown bitch” and his isolation is emphasised through the companionship of this dog. Furthermore the poets both end their poems on very different notes. In AOMWN the line, “it’s thus he does of a winter night” gives a sense of hopelessness; a sense that old age will be harsh. The use of the word “Winter” depicts harsh weather which connotes a harsh life.
Whilst in Man and Dog the closing lines are about the weakness of old age, but the speaker’s attitude towards weakness is very different to that of AOMWN. “together in the twilight of the wood”, this collective phrase shows how the man is united with nature through this simple encounter. The image of the man walking along with nature is a positive image. His isolation has led him to be close to nature. In Man and Dog the tone is rather positive and almost hopeful, the man could dwell upon his isolation and feel lonely, but instead this man makes the most of the isolation, he makes the most of his situation. many a man sleep worse tonight” here, the individual recognises that others are far worse off than he is and is appreciative of this. Contrastingly in AOMWN a hopeless tone is established, death is referred to and so is the harshness of this man’s life. “All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him” an adverb is used here to show how it seems that nature is against him, that he is at odds with his surroundings establishing this hopeless tone. To conclude both poets explore the theme of isolation, both however in different ways.
In Man and Dog a positive attitude towards isolation is formed, “He laughed and whistled” the use of the verbs in this line show the vitality and energy of this elderly man showing how he has embraced his isolation. He has been drawn nearer to nature, and he has found companionship in his dog. In AOMWN a saddened view is formed towards the isolation of this elderly figure. His mental decay has separated him from society and he is isolated and lonely. This is shown through the reverberating silence. The repetition of “clomping” depicts the sound of his footsteps in the silence emphasising the fear isolation can bring.