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Snowy Woods Robert Frost Analysis Essay

Essay about Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Eve

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Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", seems to be a simple story of a man and his horse. It portrays beautiful imagery with an enjoyable rhythm and rhyming scheme. Taking a second look at this poem may bring a more complex curiosity about what Frost is exactly trying to achieve through his words. It is apparent in the breakdown of the poem that new meanings and revelations are to be found. This is seen by relating almost all of his statements to each stanza and line. Robert Frost's aesthetic philosophy about "Stopping by Woods" gives a more penetrating view into his work.

"It [the poem] finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad." (Frost 985). The…show more content…

1 & 3) It seems as though the character is delighted and almost childish, sneaking around on someone's property. As the poem progresses, "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." (l. 13-16) the character seems to shift into a more mature mood and use more wisdom. He realizes that as much as he would like to stop and rest, he has prior commitments and recognizes their importance.

It is important to look for the obscure meanings underneath Robert Frost's words. He explains this in the aesthetic breakdown: "It should be the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can... But it is a trick poem..." (Frost 985). To simply look at the poem it may seem to depict a story of a man walking through the woods on a snowy night. To discover the meanings of the seemingly straightforward phrases, questions must be asked and sentences must be challenged. The walk that the character is taking may be a metaphor for a journey through life. "He will not see me stopping here</em> to watch the woods fill up with snow" (l. 3 & 4). This may mean that the character is stopping and reflecting on life. The poem is introspective and retrospective at the same time. Frost concurs with this in this aesthetic when he says: "It must be a revelation or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader." (Frost 985).

When Frost says "It must be more felt than seen ahead

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On a dark winter evening, the narrator stops his sleigh to watch the snow falling in the woods. At first he worries that the owner of the property will be upset by his presence, but then he remembers that the owner lives in town, and he is free to enjoy the beauty of the falling snow. The sleigh horse is confused by his master’s behavior — stopping far away from any farmhouse — and shakes his harness bells in impatience. After a few more moments, the narrator reluctantly continues on his way.


In terms of text, this poem is remarkably simple: in sixteen lines, there is not a single three-syllable word and only sixteen two-syllable words. In terms of rhythmic scheme and form, however, the poem is surprisingly complex. The poem is made up of four stanzas, each with four stressed syllables in iambic meter. Within an individual stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme (for example, “know,” “though,” and “snow” of the first stanza), while the third line rhymes with the first, second, and fourth lines of the following stanza (for example, “here” of the first stanza rhymes with “queer,” “near,” and “year” of the second stanza).

One of Frost’s most famous works, this poem is often touted as an example of his life work. As such, the poem is often analyzed to the minutest detail, far beyond what Frost himself intended for the short and simple piece. In reference to analyses of the work, Frost once said that he was annoyed by those “pressing it for more than it should be pressed for. It means enough without its being pressed…I don’t say that somebody shouldn’t press it, but I don’t want to be there.”

The poem was inspired by a particularly difficult winter in New Hampshire when Frost was returning home after an unsuccessful trip at the market. Realizing that he did not have enough to buy Christmas presents for his children, Frost was overwhelmed with depression and stopped his horse at a bend in the road in order to cry. After a few minutes, the horse shook the bells on its harness, and Frost was cheered enough to continue home.

The narrator in the poem does not seem to suffer from the same financial and emotional burdens as Frost did, but there is still an overwhelming sense of the narrator’s unavoidable responsibilities. He would prefer to watch the snow falling in the woods, even with his horse’s impatience, but he has “promises to keep,” obligations that he cannot ignore even if he wants to. It is unclear what these specific obligations are, but Frost does suggest that the narrator is particularly attracted to the woods because there is “not a farmhouse near.” He is able to enjoy complete isolation.

Frost’s decision to repeat the final line could be read in several ways. On one hand, it reiterates the idea that the narrator has responsibilities that he is reluctant to fulfill. The repetition serves as a reminder, even a mantra, to the narrator, as if he would ultimately decide to stay in the woods unless he forces himself to remember his responsibilities. On the other hand, the repeated line could be a signal that the narrator is slowly falling asleep. Within this interpretation, the poem could end with the narrator’s death, perhaps as a result of hypothermia from staying in the frozen woods for too long.

The narrator’s “promises to keep” can also be seen as a reference to traditional American duties for a farmer in New England. In a time and a place where hard work is valued above all things, the act of watching snow fall in the woods may be viewed as a particularly trivial indulgence. Even the narrator is aware that his behavior is not appropriate: he projects his insecurities onto his horse by admitting that even a work animal would “think it queer.”

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