Deep sleep allows the body an escape from time, achieving physical and psychological rejuvenation. Various stages of the sleep process pass sequentially before reaching deep sleep. Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple-Picking,” clearly describes the troubled reality of one individual’s inability to reach deep sleep. The consequences are distressing and exhausting dreams that consume physical and psychological energy. The speaker in “After Apple-Picking” characterizes his dreams as intense and haunting in a sleep stage called “human sleep.
” He yearns to reach a deep state of sleep to gain physical and psychological renewal. Frost uses the term “woodchuck sleep” to represent this sleep stage. Critic Roy Scheele refers to “woodchuck sleep” as “completely forgetful sleep” (Scheele 148). The speaker is locked into “human sleep” and experiences intense work dreams. The third, fourth, and fifth lines of the poem reflect his shortcomings that are manifested in the intense work dreams. The first is an empty barrel he did not fill. The second is two or three apples he did not pick upon some bough.
In the speaker’s dream state he obsesses about every single apple he did not harvest. These reflections of his shortcomings represent a lack of personal worth and inability to achieve goals. These reminders are agonizing to him. His only desire is to pass this dream state into an unconscious deep sleep to escape imagined failures and thereby achieve rejuvenation. The speaker’s dreams illustrate why he does not have self worth. His first dream uses a “pane of glass” he took from the frozen surface of the drinking trough.
The speaker holds the sheet of ice “against the world of hoary grass. ” His view of the hoary grass symbolizes the world he lives in; he then “let it fall and break,” illustrating his willingness to change his values. The speaker hopes that his dreams of “no self worth” are flawed. If he can change his old values and create new values, he will resolve all shortcomings. The speaker believes he will achieve this through the advice of the woodchuck. If he cannot reach a state of deep sleep, his values will remain the same, leaving his shortcoming unresolved.
His second dream exemplifies the detailed imagery of the apple harvest that psychologically haunts and seems to exhaust him. The detailed images are presented in passages such as “my instep arch not only keeps the ache, / It keeps the pressure of the ladder-round” and “I keep hearing from the cellar bin / the rumbling sound / Of load on load of apples coming in. ” His exhaustion is evident when he states, “For I have had too much / Of apple picking: I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired.
” The speaker seems to struggle to pass into the state of deep “woodchuck” sleep that escapes him as he conveys “One can see what will trouble / This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. ” The speaker is certain deep sleep will relieve him from the harvest imagery and provide him rejuvenation through hibernation. If the speaker is able to hibernate, he will not be concerned with his shortcomings and his self worth will not need self-justification. The speaker’s persistent troubled dreams emphasize his old and trusting values.
This leads me to believe the speaker is a perfectionist. The speaker may have done a great job in proving his self worth. However, it is not good enough for him because he still refers to his old values, which in his view diminish his self worth. He must transform and believe that his work cannot be flawless and give room for error. When the speaker’s old values transform, he will be free to make mistakes, making his inability to reach deep sleep non-existent.
Once he is not a perfectionist, he will find himself at ease, and enter the woodchuck’s sleep, gaining the rest and rejuvenation he desires.
Works Cited -Frost, Robert. “After Apple-Picking. ” Literature: An Introduction to Critical Reading. Ed. Lee E. Jacobus. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall, 1996. 765. -Scheele, Roy. “After Apple-Picking. ” Gone Into If Not Explained. Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 145-53. Garth H. Hamp English 1030-03.