Blog: This poem certainly seems to be about apple picking, and about sleep. What more could apple-picking and sleep represent? And if they represent more than themselves, then what sort of figure does that make them?
In “After Apple-Picking,” Frost uses two symbols; apples and sleep. Both are symbols because they exist in the speaker’s life, but also figuratively. In this case, apples are a symbol for the accomplishments in life (in the speaker’s life). By picking apples, the speaker accomplishes something, however when he misses the apples, the speaker does not achieve anything. The persona says, “And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill.” That barrel is supposed to hold apples, and by not filling that barrel, the speaker missed so much that is out there (in the world). The speaker says, “There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,” meaning there is much to experience in the world, and the persona missed so much of it; there is simply not enough time to see everything the world offers. This is why the speaker is ready to sleep. In this poem, sleep is used as a symbol for death. After feeling finished with apple-picking, the speaker mentions fatigue and sleep approaching him. The first time it is used is on line 7. Right before that, on line 6, the persona says, “But I am done with apple-picking.” Following that, he says, “Essence of winter sleep is on the night,” showing how death is coming near and how, who I think is an old man, the speaker knows death is around the corner. The word, “winter,” is often associated with the words dark and death. He says, “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight,” connoting that he cannot get away from his weariness. To further show how he is tired of apple-picking, he says, “For I have had too much/Of apple-picking: I am overtired/Of the great harvest I myself desired.” This proves how he is “overtired” of apple-picking. Soon after, at the end of the poem, the speaker describes his upcoming sleep. He says, “Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,/Or just some human sleep.” This quote shows how the speaker is tired of life and how he is readily awaiting his “long sleep.”