Summary and Analysis: Robert Frost's Poem "A Girl's Garden"

Updated on March 20, 2018
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Matt is a bay area based writer and UC San Diego alumnus with a degree in literature.

Portrait of Robert Frost.
Portrait of Robert Frost. | Source

Written in 1916, Robert Frost’s “A Girl’s Garden” tells the story of a young girl who asks her father to give her a small piece of his farm so that she may start a garden. The father sees no reason to object, and after identifying an “idle bit” of land, he hands it over to his daughter and let’s her begin gardening.

The narrator of the poem is the girl’s neighbor, and the retelling of her story seems to be much later, when both the girl and the narrator are adults. The narrator’s voice is eager throughout, and captures the girl’s innocent excitement at having a piece of land–no matter how small and barren–to call her own.

It doesn’t take long for the girl to learn of the difficulties of gardening a plot of land. To add nutrients and moisture to the dirt, she must trudge back and forth with a wheelbarrow of stinking dung, and, after planting a variety of seeds, her yields are less than satisfactory.

Having this experience, the girl can relate to farmers in the village who experience similar woes, albeit on a much larger scale.

A Girl's Garden

A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
And he said, "Why not?"

In casting about for a corner
He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
And he said, "Just it."

And he said, "That ought to make you
An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
On your slim-jim arm."

It was not enough of a garden
Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
But she don't mind now.

She wheeled the dung in a wheelbarrow
Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
Her not-nice load,

And hid from anyone passing.
And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
That a cider-apple
In bearing there today is hers,
Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
She says, "I know!

"It's as when I was a farmer..."
Oh never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
To the same person twice.

Analysis

In Robert Frost’s “A Girl’s Garden,” we observe a young girl receiving her first unadulterated taste of life’s inherent harshness and unpredictability–of adulthood. Through the upkeep of the garden, the girl gains her first bit of real-world experience, initiating a metamorphosis from childhood to young adulthood.

Before her gardening venture, the girl was presumably like any other small child: without responsibility or care, skipping happily through a life without resistance, pain or suffering. But in the process of caring for the garden, the girl learns of hard, manual labor, of patience and the passage of time, of expectations unfulfilled–in short, the coarse, yet beautiful, nature of life.

Going into the village having had these experiences, the girl feels a new, familial tie with townspeople: she is like them in that she, too, has experienced the struggle of caring for a plot of land. Whether it be a 100 acre farm or a garden in an abject corner, both the girl and the farmers of the town have endured similar experiences, especially when it comes to that of yields.

Robert Frost often injects his poems with valuable life lessons, and aside from the overarching theme of a child reaching maturity through responsibility and experience, he offers a unique message when it comes to the performance of the girl’s garden.

Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.

In this light, the garden operates as a metaphor for life. The seeds she sows are her hopes and dreams; the diversity of what she ultimately reaps are the fruition of those hopes and wishes. Perhaps she did not get that which she wanted most from the soil of her garden, but she got many other things in smaller amounts, and with this she is content.

Lastly, we learn through the way the poem is delivered that one’s experiences and the lessons learned from them never halt with the person. Experiences are shared from person to person, with each individual taking from another’s experience a unique lesson that applies their life. The narrator of the story is the girl’s neighbor, and this person is telling the story to us as the girl must have told it to the narrator and to many other people in the village. Thus, one girl’s gardening experience has the ability to teach many, or, at the very least, to appeal to the shared experience of being human.

Reading of "A Girl's Garden"

© 2018 Matt Zamudio

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      Matt Zamudio 4 weeks ago from Oakland

      Thanks for reading, Verlie! It is a beautiful poem, and it was a pleasure to read, converse, and muse over. I tried to touch on some of the main themes, but it seems this poem can offer a bounty of wisdom depending on how long you're willing to contemplate it.

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      Verlie Burroughs 4 weeks ago from Canada

      Sweet write Matt. Enjoyed your deconstruction of Frost's poem. He is such a witty and wise observer. Nice poem too, first time I've seen it. I can relate to the girl's experience, having done a bit of gardening myself over the years. It is hard work, but rewarding. Thanks!

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