Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evenin

Robert Frost

Literal

On the literal level, this poem is fairly simple. The speaker is stopping by some woods on a snowy evening. He observes the beautiful scenery of the woods and assumes his horse is confused because there were no farmhouses nearby. He is tempted to stay longer, but commitments and the great distance he has yet to travel pull him away.

Situation

The poem is a narrative that tells the story of a man who takes a break in his journey to observe nature. Frost uses nature as an admirable wonder that tempts the man from his path, developing the theme that sometimes one seeks nature when isolating himself from the fastmoving world. The last two lines are the most significant lines of the poem. The repetition of "And miles to go before I sleep" intensifies the power and meaning of this phrase. The first "And miles to go before I sleep" appeals to readers on the literal level, and seems to mean that the speaker has a great distance to travel before he can finally rest. However, in this final couplet, "miles to go" symbolizes life and "sleep" symbolizes death.

Structure

Though there are 16 lines in the poem, there are only 6 complete sentences. Each sentence alone is quite simple, but together, they convey a more complicated idea and deeper meaning. There are only two end-stopped lines, when the punctuation coincides with then end of a poetic line. The remaining lines are enjambment, when the thought continues into the next line. The poem develops chronologically, and the ideas shift from appreciation of nature to despair and preoccupation with life.

Language

Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" uses unique diction to create a dark mood. The speaker uses words such as "darkest" "frozen," and "deep." The main conflict in the story is between the attraction of the woods and the pull of obligation from outside the woods. The woods can be interpreted in a number of ways. I believe they represent a break from civilization and the worries of life. The man is attracted by their beauty, but the woods carry a sense of danger because it is the "darkest evening" of the year. The speaker describes the woods as "lovely, dark, and deep." This is called juxtaposition, in which words are placed next to one another with contrasting effect.

Musical Devices

The poem is written in four stanzas with iambic tetrameter. They rhythm is consistent throughout the poem, which allows for a smooth, enjoyable, reading experience. The first, second, and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme. For example, in the second stanza, shake, mistake, and flake all rhyme. The rhyme scheme flows perfectly and effortlessly; this creates a satisfying effect as the reader interprets the poem.

Historical Setting

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was written in 1922 by Robert Frost at his house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Frost wrote the poem in one sitting, and he called it his "best bid for remembrance." In November of 1963, when broadcaster Sid Davis reported the arrival of Present John F. Kennedy's casket to the white house, he concluded his report with a passage from this poem because Frost was one of Kennedy's favorite poets. Additionally, at the funeral of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, a speaker used the last stanza of the poem in his speech, "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. He has kept his promises and earned his sleep."

Appearance In Other Media

In Vladmir Nabakov's (Russian Novelist) novel Pale Fire, he calls the poem "one of the greatest short poems in the English language." The poem also appears in Skyrim (video game), where one of the quests is called "promises to keep." Additionally, in the video game The Walking Dead: Season Two, the player receives an achievement titled "Miles to go".
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Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Citations

Lathem, Edward. "Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening." PBS. bps, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 Mar. 2015