analysis of accidentally on purpose

“Accidentally on Purpose”

An Analysis of Robert Frost’s “Accidentally on Purpose”

American poet Robert Frost is well-renowned for his unparalleled use of metaphors, paradoxes, sarcasms and humour in his pieces. His works usually depict the rural life of people and uses this setting to formulate his philosophical themes. His unique style of regionalism gave him numerous awards throughout his writing career.

One recognized poem of his is “Accidentally on Purpose.” Frost’s “Accidentally on Purpose” talks about the whether the creation of the universe is accidental or on purpose. From the poem’s title alone, Frost already introduces ambiguity and challenges readers to find the answers and meanings behind his piece. Even though Frost used simple words, the poem indirectly presents the ideas to the readers. Compared to his previous works, the title of this poem is clearer and easier to understand.

In the first stanza, Robert Frost describes the universe in his simple but creative way. The stanza goes this way: “The Universe is but the Thing of things,/ The things but balls all going round in rings./ Some mighty huge, some mighty tiny, /All of them radiant and mighty shiny.”  The use of metaphors such as “balls” mentioned here pertain to the planets, stars and other heavenly bodies rotating around in rings. He also presents that they vary in sizes and illuminations.  In this part of the poem, Frost views the creation of the universe as accidental and that it has no purpose. The reader would assume that Frost believed in the theory of evolution and other creation theories including the famous Big Bang Theory. In the succeeding stanzas, Frost also mentions “They mean to tell us all was rolling blind” and “They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus” in which, the word “they” pertains to the people who believed in the Darwin’s theory of evolution. He also brings up Darwin’s argument that his theory has no purpose and everything comes out naturally. However, in the last lines of the third stanza, he mentions that “They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus/ Had no real purpose until it got to us.” The phrase, “until it got to us,” poses doubt on Darwin’s theory and at the same time it introduces the concept being defended on the succeeding stanzas. It might mean that evolution and creation still depends on human beings and other creatures. It’s everybody’s choice and instinct to choose their preferred evolution path.

“Accidentally on Purpose”

The twist arrives in the fourth stanza of the poem where he wrote: “Never believe it. At the very worst/ It must have had the purpose from the first.” It states Frost’s denial of the theoretical views of creation being relayed to us by others. Frost swiftly shifts the idea to make the readers realize what they miss. He presents the two opposing ideas in a manner where readers would get confused which of the two concepts they would believe. In the poem, he also asked whose purpose it was to accidentally create the universe.  He explains that someone might have done it on purpose and nothing happens coincidentally.  In the phrase “At the very worst”, Frost lets the readers believe his theory and that he also means that there are also several possibilities aside from his arguments. His use of “worst” does not mean that he refuses other’s theories but a mere denial to entertain them (Thompson, 1978, p.17).

As a reader, one would ask the purpose of Frost’s statements. Perhaps he means that one should not consider others who believe in the idea that the creation of the universe has no purpose because they are wrong. He might also mean that he possesses a new idea to counteract the usual concept of how the world was created. Or it might be that man cannot bear much reality (Thompson, 1978, p.17). It also seems that he is saying that human beings are an outcome of natural selection. Perhaps Frost believed in evolution as a process engineered to eventually create a more intelligent and conducive life. In the lines “To produce purpose as the fitter bred, /We were just purpose coming to a head”, he relates that the instincts of human beings always tend to choose to be a “fitter bred” for their own survival. Thus, the theory of “Survival of the Fittest” is partly introduced. Frost argues that human beings have the tendency to be the creators of the universe. Man shapes the future of the universe and the world’s destiny depends on them.

“Accidentally on Purpose”

Frost later states “Whose purpose was it, His or Hers or Its? /Let’s leave that to the scientific wits.” The “scientific wits” he refers to are the scientists who study evolution. Frost leaves the idea of the creation of the universe to the scientists for them to figure out whose purpose it was. In contrary, he asserts that “Grant me intention, purpose, and design– / That’s near enough for me to the Divine.” He defends himself by stating that he has the right to promote his own theory and that it’s everyone’s options to believe him.

In the last stanza, he claims that despite the presence of complicated creation and evolution theories formulated by scientists, human beings remain instinctive. As time progresses human beings become creators and at the same time become destroyers of the ideas and theories of his creation (Thompson, 1978, p.17). Later on, he’ll completely erase the doubts of mankind about his origin and his purpose of living in the universe.

Literally, the Frost has enough basis and evidence to come up with an argument. Frost lets the reader believe his theories and convince them to support his ideas. The poem was intentionally made to promote his personal concerns. While reading the poem, readers would actually experience that Frost directly talking to them. The poem’s structural make-up also intensifies the debate inside his piece. First, Frost starts with calm tone but as the story succeeds, his tone becomes more serious. Consequently, readers also learn to decode and interpret the ideas behind his piece.

“Accidentally on Purpose”


Thompson, Robert B. (1978). Frost’s Accidentally on Purpose. The Explicator, 36, 17. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from

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