“After Apple-Picking” is among the early literal works of Robert Frost. The poem describes the reflections of an apple-picker after a harvest season. The speaker employs the word sleep repeatedly in the entire poem. The word sleep appears six times in the poem showing that it has strong implications in the poem. The narrator uses the word sleep to depict that he needs to rest after a long day’s work as portrayed by the following lines. “But I am done with apple-picking now/ essence of winter sleep is on the night” (6-7). However, as the poem progresses, the word sleep is being used as a metaphor for impending death. “Essence of winter sleep is on the night” (7). In this case, winter sleep refers to an end of something, which is life in this poem. As mentioned earlier “toward heaven still” (2), the speaker wishes to climb to the heaven but there is a barrel of apples he did not fill. This can be defined as an ambition to rest in eternal peace, but there some issues that are unaccomplished. As events unfold, the use of the word sleep gives a clear definition that the persona is intending to leave the face of the earth. “This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is” (38). “Long sleep, as I described is coming on” (41).
The tone of the poem begins as a peaceful one as the persona narrates how the ladder is placed on a tree pointing towards heaven. After a short while, the writer asserts that “the ladder sways as the boughs bend” 23). His audience gets a feeling of uncertainty whether a bad thing will happen when the ladder sways. As the narration progresses, the speaker uses words, such as “overtired” and “trouble” to denote a harsh tone. Therefore, this poem uses the word sleep symbolically to delineate an impending death, and the tone changes from a somber one to a harsh one towards the end.
Frost, R., & Edward L. (1969). The Poetry of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, 68-69. Print.