Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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When winter arrives in the year, with it brings a pause in movement. The growth of plants and vegetation is interrupted and concealed by layers of fluffy white. Everything is frozen in time and place when winter succeeds fall. An appropriate choice for Robert Frost’s poem, the setting of winter appears to have the same effect on the narrator as it would on the plants and trees around him. The most prominent action the narrator does in the poem is pause in mid journey and ponder the question regarding the value of life. In Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening the narrator conveys a theme of suicidal intent through the use of metaphors and imagery.

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The first verse of Frost’s poem establishes a setting that is significant in conveying the narrator’s mental state:

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow. (1-4)

In the second and third line where the narrator says, His house is in the village though; /He will not see me stopping here, the narrator promptly makes known to the reader that he is not in the village. The narrator is clearly a separate entity from the village in both a physical and emotional sense. He stops in a place where he knows he will not be seen by the villager whom he has journeyed across an unknown distance to meet. The narrator is hiding from the villager and society and one rarely hides without something to hide from. The first verse of the poem induces significant pondering which is a repeated theme throughout the poem.

With the first verse gathering the reader’s attention and kindling inquiry, the second verse goes on to reveal underlying layers within the narrator:

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year. (5-8)

Prior belief of the narrator existing in the woods alone is disproven through the addition of another character, the narrator’s horse. The horse, who makes an appearance in the third verse as well, is given a notable amount of attention in Frost’s poem with having a presence in two out of a total of four verses.With the horse being significant in the poem, the reader can perceive the parallel of the horse being significant in the narrator’s life as well. The narrator by result must be deprived of effective and meaningful communication, which can have the power to make any individual feel lonesome and like an outcast. In the line, The darkest evening of the year the narrator makes a bold statement that reveals more than just the ambience of the woods. The word dark is often used by mentally ill individuals to describe their thoughts and feelings. The narrator takes a step further and uses the descriptive, darkest which transforms the whole tone of the poem and prompts the suspicion that the narrator may do something harmful to himself in the middle of the dark, remote woods.

Following the second verse which ignites the idea of suicide, the third verse pulls at the idea further through entwined metaphors and symbols:

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake. (9-12)

In the second line of the verse the narrator uses the word mistake which seems to hold a significant weight as it concludes the sentence and is placed within the sentence where emphasis lands when spoken out loud. The attention drawn to the word, mistake alludes to how the narrator may subconsciously know any irreversible act of self-harm would be unwise and wrong. With the narrator falling deeper into his intent, the horse reappears in the verse with the lines, He gives his harness bells a shake /To ask if there is some mistake where the action of shaking his harness bells illustrates the horses attempt to shake the narrator out of his trance. The horse is presented as a physical representation of the narrators conscience and moral sense. The narrators companion is the opposing force in the poem encouraging the narrator to resist any toxic temptations he may harbor as he stands in the woods and contemplates his own life.

After grappling with his dark thoughts in the third verse, the narrator starts to come down from the edge in the fourth and final verse:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep. (13-16)

Unlike the other three verses, every word at the end of each line rhyme perfectly and can be thought of as a display of the narrator’s brain obtaining a sensible succession of thoughts and the pieces falling back into place, making logical connections. The narrator reveals to the reader in the second line that he has promises to keep which can be interpreted as having a deeper meaning that goes beyond just meeting up with the villager mentioned in verse one. The promise that the narrator references could refer to a promise he made to himself to live on another day and not give in to his dark demons. The line proceeding reads and miles to go before I sleep indicating how he underneath all the dark thoughts resides the true belief he has where he knows he has a long life to live before he shall sleep or, more explicitly, die. The last two lines of the verse are repeated and conclude the poem. People have a tendency to repeat thoughts or beliefs to themselves as a way to convince themselves of something they are resistant to believe but know deep down they should accept. Despite the narrator’s evident mental illness, he chooses to live for another day for reasons that aren’t made clear to the reader.

Within the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, written by Robert Frost, are various literary devices that aid in communicating the theme of deep depression of the narrator stopped in the woods. The narrator’s internal struggle is buried deep in the snow, not visible without a significant amount of examination. The winter and woods combination creates a beautiful atmosphere with a lingering feeling of melancholy. After a while of being out in the middle of snowy woods the feeling of loneliness comes creeping through and the essence of the surrounding landscape is altered. Similar to in the poem, dark thoughts and feelings are ultimately intensified in what is the most frigid and somber time of year.

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Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/robert-frost-stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening/

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