Frost- a Leaf Treader

Discuss how Frost presents and explores rural pursuits in 'A Leaf-Treader' - how typical is this in regard to the rest of the selection?

In ‘A Leaf-Treader’, Frost presents rural pursuits as a difficult task or burden, from which a sense of relief can be achieved. Phrases like “all day” and “autumn tired” imply this onerous chore, yet ultimately the narrator ends up being “safely” secure in the knowledge that he has done his duty, although the job is not yet complete as he must “keep on top of another year of snow”. This contrasts with ‘After Apple Picking’ where the narrator feels guilty as there is a “barrel that [he] didn’t fill”. In this poem this guilt transforms into a sense of resignation as he says “but I am done with apple-picking now”, whereas in ‘A Leaf-Treader’ the narrator shows more determination as he combats the sinister, aggressive leaves with “but it was no reason I had to go because they had to go”. Work involving leaves is a prominent feature of Frost’s works, and is perhaps best exemplified in ‘Gathering Leaves’, a poem which contradicts the pessimistic tone of ‘A Leaf-Treader’ by producing a more upbeat mood where the narrator is enjoying the activity for its own sake. For instance the simile “bags full of leaves are light as balloons” suggests a state of enjoyment and pleasure, although this is at odds with the fact that the narrator is unable to transform the “harvest” into something more useful. The critic Mordecai Marcus is of the opinion that “Frost playfully treats the combined frustration and joy of a necessary cleansing”, and so in this light Frost presents rural pursuits as something elusive, yet simultaneously rewarding.

Interestingly though, in ‘Gathering Leaves’ the leaves appear to exasperate the narrator as they “elude my embrace, flowing over my arms and into my face”, and this idea of the leaves being against Frost is additionally present in ‘A Leaf-Treader’. Here, the leaves are portrayed as sinister and ominous, as...