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Is there any figurative language in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

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sn | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:03 PM via web

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Is there any figurative language in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted March 11, 2009 at 12:27 AM (Answer #1)

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Let's go back and look at that "easy wind and downy flake" business. Is the wind actually "easy," by technical defintion? Or is Frost using figurative language here to make the reader sense that the wind is not harsh or bitter, but rather a gentle and light sensation? One could argue that both "easy wind" and "downy flake" utilize figurative language, in that neither description is completely literal. Downy is an adjective which most accurately described light feathers, such as goose down. However, snow is not feathers, and therefore, this description could be seen as figurative.  

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anzio45 | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:30 PM (Answer #2)

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The short answer to your question is no, in the sense that the poem contains no metaphors, similes or rhetorical flourishes. Frost narrates his experience in very simple language - most of the words are monosyllables - and direct narrative. Even his use of adjectives is sparing in what is a very visual poem: the words 'lovely, dark and deep' are used of the woods, the lake is 'frozen', it is the 'darkest evening of the year', and there is a 'sweep of easy wind and downy flake' (these two the nearest to metaphor in the poem), but beyond this Frost leaves it to the reader to create the scene. I don't think the horse is is meant to be in any way figurative either: a horse used to travelling this route without stopping might well be puzzled by this pause, especially at the end of what has perhaps been a hard day's work.

However, that is to tell only half the story. The poem as a whole is seen as figurative, even symbolic, by many readers. We have to ask ourselves what this journey might represent beyond its literal sense. Is it a journey of life, a life in which we all too often have to curb our natural impulses and desires because of the pressures and 'rules' that govern us? Is the poem saying something important about decision-making, ethical dilemmas, beauty, duty, impulse? In other words, is the poem about abstract and philosophical issues despite its simple language describing concrete experience?

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