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‘The Gift Outright’ was written by the American poet Robert Frost. Largely known for its political assertion, the poem has been referred by many political leaders. Frost read it himself in the inauguration day of President Kennedy.

The “preliminary history’ of America is the background of this poem. Frost has written this in Blank Verse because it offers a greater opportunity to use the language in a style of poetic conversation.

America is a country created by European settlers. Most of the national artists of America have dealt with the story of settlement. In a contemporary age, the assertion of Frost can be accused of racist ignorance.

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The poem begins with a political assertion but the hesitance of the poet towards the civilizational capacity of the nation is obvious. Frost remains ambiguous in his political makeup. 

The poem refers directly to the westward expansion of America. The poet describes the origin of America in a masterful way. The whole poem is the history of America. In the beginning, those who came from England were still bearing allegiance to England.

The poet believes that the true nationalism can never come unless one truly belongs to the land on which he lives. The ones who came earlier to the land never accepted it wholeheartedly.

They were still possessing Europe, not the new land America. The slow realization made them accept the land and only then the true possession came. 

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The people living on the land must not withhold themselves from the land. Even when the poet asks for the true nationalism, he himself probably doesn’t have certainty about any national progress.

He is hesitant about the culture of America. He is still looking from the point of view of Europe. He has no confidence in the civilization of America. The lack of history makes him wonder whether the land is still unstoried.

The people may not have enhanced themselves into truly American. Like any artist, he deplores the lack of culture. He is scorning the American artlessness. It is ironic because he is an artist himself in that country.

The poem doubts certainty regarding the growth of the country. The history is ingrained in the mind of the poet so the past worries him. He knows that the future rewrites the past. His appeal is for an age of art, culture and golden history.

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The lack of such core requirements for any civilization worries him. Yet, he celebrates the freedom of belonging to this nation. The poem draws from the Christian values which Eliot showed in his work ‘The Wasteland’.

That is why it says that the people of a country find salvation in surrendering to the land completely. One can not withhold oneself from the land in which one lives. 

The poem capitalizes on this issue of nationalism which is rooted in the American experience. Although it ignores the indigenous people of the land who were decimated by the settlers, the poem is truly American in its call and beliefs.

Read summary of this poem

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Here are important questions and answers to this poem.

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