In Joyce Oates’ Lovely, Dark, Deep, Mr. Robert Frost is a seventy-seven year-old American poet who lives in a cabin in the woods at Bread Loaf, Vermont. Oates describes how Evangeline Fife; an interviewer, visits the poet for an interview at his residence and narrates the entire interview from the perspective of the interviewer. The author narrates that Frost was widowed in 1938; therefore, the interviewer did not expect any reception from his wife. Robert Frost is not arrogant as depicted by the article, rather he is self-centered and inconsiderate of what happens to people around him, even his closest family members. The ineptitude, preset mindset, coupled with occasional condescending remarks from Fife are what lead to a hostile and ineffective interview process that almost portrays Frost as arrogant. Nonetheless, the final remarks in the interview, where Frosts says he is concerned with poetry more than his son’s future is shows that he is inconsiderate of the welfare of other people. The interviewer, Evangeline Fife, seeks to unearth some of Frost’s dark character traits. In typical allegory fashion, Oates presents Mr. Frost as an arrogant individual, but presents little evidence to prove her perceptions.
Lovely, Dark, Deep is an allegory that is based on an interview of Mr. Robert Frost; the protagonist, by Evangeline Fife; the antagonist, for a feature in the Poetry Parnassus magazine. The antagonism in Fife, is concealed at the start of the narrative, but her role is gradually made clear as she personifies the author’s negative perspective towards the main character. Through the narrative, Fife seeks answers from Mr. Frost and directs the interview to reveal his negative side. Maybe she needed information that would be interesting enough for the magazine feature, but she was obligated to bring out a fair opinion in the minds of the reader. Arguably individuals have positive and negative characteristics and it seems that Fife was opinionated and focused on her interviewee’s weaknesses. Notably in the interview, Fife did not ask Mr. Frost about his major achievements or his development to achieve his status as a renowned poet. Probably, the poet’s frustrations towards the end of the interview were caused by the ever-negative discourse with the interviewer. Evidently, Mr. Frost’s seemingly arrogant mien was an attempt to defend himself against the aggression to his personality.
The author is descriptive and explains that Mr. Robert Frost was an old man with a heavily built body. Her view is rather stereotypic, because she paints a picture of a physically imperfect man with an unpleasant personality. While the conduct of Mr. Frost could have been unpleasant, her emphasis on presenting the physical features of the protagonist reveals her intention to persuade the reader about his character. Effectively, the reader is drawn to see Mr. Frost in a negative perspective because of the description given by the author. According to her, his “torso seemed to sag against his shirt. When he folded his hands over his belly, it strained the white cotton shirt he was wearing exposing his elderly navel”. Also Fife finds him as “slack-faced old man, different from the pictures of a young man that she had hung in her bedroom”. Her tone in these statement reveals displeasure. Actually she presents the notion that the poet is not what he is believed to be: a cue to the reader that the real man behind the image that the world knows does not measure to expectation.
Mr. Frost’s character is depicted as that of an arrogant renowned poet. The interviewer relates his character to arrogance by the way he conducts himself during the interview. The author points out that Mr. Frost frowns at the mention of him featuring only on the cover of Poetry Parnassus yet he brightens up when she assures him that the October issue would exclusively feature him. While the author’s intention in the statement is to show the character’s arrogance, the statement lacks a substantive proof, but displays the normal reaction of a person to different news. In reality, anyone would be pleased to receive coverage in the entire pages of a popular magazine. Probably featuring on the top over of a magazine was nothing new to Mr. Frost and he had no reason to express pleasure for it. Therefore, his demonstration of pleasure at being told that he would feature in the entire magazine should not be construed as arrogance.
The language used in the article indicates the author’s cynical perspective and intention to dissuade the reader. Notably, she uses imagery to enhance the reader’s perception of the story.
As she describes Mr. Frost she severally likens his physical features with some imagery. For example, she says “his torso sagged against his shirt like a great udder” and refers to his hair as “snowy white”. Through the article, she does not hesitate to give a clear description of his features or activities with imagery to enhance the reader’s perception. Her use of imagery depicts her predisposition to provide a vivid picture and the intent to persuade the reader to her point of view.
Fife’s questions to Mr. Frost about his family are negatively inclined to portray him in a negative light. For instance she questions him about the death of his wife, with the notion that he had a role to play in it. Also, she questions him about his children and suggests that his neglect of his family is the reason why his daughter Irma is confined in a mental hospital (Oates 79). The poet protests at the accusations and claims that the allegations are not true. Clearly, his frantic protests are indicative that he could not have done these activities-if at all he did- in arrogance. Logically, his arrogance would have been revealed by an acknowledgement of these actions and defiance. His protests indicate a responsible individual who wants to be accountable for his action and not one that does not care about what the people think. Clearly, the interviewer is mistaken and is making the wrong accusations about Mr. Frost.
Fife’s dislike for the poet is revealed by her contemptuous description to portray that she is disgusted at his character. Despite the fact that the poet denies the allegations leveled against him, the interviewer goes ahead to pass judgment and regard him as guilty of the negative allegations. She depicts her disgust by her statement; “strangely, it seemed that he was suddenly bare-chested, the shame of his soft, slack torso, the udder like breasts, exposed to all the world” (Oates 81). Yet, he was able to get hold of his notebook, indicating that he was “not done with poetry yet”. Fife implies that Mr. Frost may have been judged cruelly by the world, but he was not going to stop writing poems. In this regard, the narrator is clearly biased and unfairly declares the Poet guilty while there is no sufficient evidence to proof the allegation against Mr. Frost regarding his family members.
In Lovely, Dark, Deep, Mr. Frost is presented as an arrogant poet who strives to present an image of perfectness to his audience. Through an interview by Fife, the poet’s behavior seem defiant, and evasive, but does not portray the arrogance that the interviewer would want the reader to believe. Oates goes ahead to portray his prioritization to work rather than his family by explaining how he neglects his family and seems not interested in developing his son’s future. In the end, Oates asserts that the most important thing in his life was writing his poems, but his perceived arrogance could be his expression of disappointment at the interview, which seemed to focus on negative issues in his life.
Oates, Joyce C. “Lovely, Dark, Deep”. Harpers Magazine, 2013: 70 – 81. Print.
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