Symbolism in “After Apple Picking”

These arent real apples of course, they are symbolic of the tasks he had yet to complete, the poems he had yet to write, but he is overwhelmed by these possibilities. “For I have had too much/of apple-picking: I am overtired/of the great harvest I myself desired” (27-9). His hyperbolic description of “ten thousand” (thats one million) apples to touch confirms that he is completely overwhelmed by what was left undone. One million apples left unpicked. One million poems left unwritten. One million possibilities that will never come to fruition.

The fruit was not all good — not all the words of the poems were worth keeping, perhaps, and those that were edited out “struck the earthwent surely to the cider-apple heap/as of no worth” (33, 35-6). Cider is not worthless, however, and the apples that fall to the ground are all part of the cycle of life and work. Looking back at the end of his day (or his life) the speaker is focusing not on the accomplishments, but on what could have been. There is a barrel he didnt fill, good apples left on the tree and many regrets, apples that he let fall, destined to be mashed up and made into something else, something besides beautiful poems molded and crafted by the speaker.

The last six lines of the poem call up one last image, the woodchuck. He is gone already, having gone into his own winter-sleep, his hibernation, and so he cannot help the speaker answer what kind of sleep he is headed for. Is he merely tired after a day, a life of apple-picking, poetry writing, or other work? Will he wake up tomorrow, and if he does, will he be refreshed as if he too had a restorative hibernation? or, the speaker asks himself, is he merely about to get “just some human sleep” and awake to climb the latter again tomorrow and pick more apples? The lingering dream state of the speaker makes it impossible to him to answer his own question, but the symbols and images of his poem make clear to the reader that his is no ordinary rest at the end of a long day. The apple-picking has taken a toll, perhaps its final toll, on the speaker, and no matter what happens tomorrow, his desire for returning to his ladder is gone. Apple-picking is now in his past.

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. “After Apple-Picking.” Washington State University. 1998.

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