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What are some examples of figurative language in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?"

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cody1212 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 20, 2009 at 9:37 PM via web

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What are some examples of figurative language in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:56 PM (Answer #1)

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"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is remarkably free of figurative language; most of the poem is stated factually, without metaphor or allegory. The narrator thinks he knows the owner of the woods, who lives in the village. The woods are "filling up with snow." The lake is frozen, the evening is dark, and the woods are "lovely... and deep."

While there are others, the obvious example of figurative language is seen in the narrator's personification of his horse, which seems puzzled by the narrator's decision to stop and look at the woods instead of continuing on the path.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
[...]
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
(Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," eNotes eText)

Of course, horses don't think abstractly enough to consider things "queer" or strange, and they cannot ask any specific question. Instead, the horse is simply accustomed to moving along the path, and is waiting for instruction; it could be shaking its bells to shake snow off its neck. The narrator, however, is feeling doubt about his course in life, and so humanizes the horse, projecting some of his doubt into otherwise instinctual actions.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted May 20, 2009 at 11:44 PM (Answer #2)

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cody1212,

The speaker of Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is in familiar territory; he is riding his sleigh during an evening snowfall and has stopped to watch the woods “fill up with snow.”

There is nothing particularly noteworthy in the speaker’s decision to stop, for falling snow is lovely to watch, but, the stopping may signify a reluctance to move forward, a fear of the future. The speaker apparently feels embarrassed by the stopping, for he notes that his “little horse” must be taking exception to the action. The speaker feels we must be busy every second of our lives. In addition, the speaker has a sense of invading someone else’s property, for the “though” of line 2 suggests that he would not stop if the owner were present to observe him.

In the last stanza, the alternatives are brought into sharp contrast: the woods vs. the promises and the miles. The speaker opts for responsibility, involvement, and action; all this is embodied in the single word “but” in line 14.

Technically, the poem lends itself to analysis of sound and rhyme. Alliteration on the s and w sounds (lines 11–12) reinforces the silence and the sweep of the wind. The sounds are comforting and attractive; they seemingly invite withdrawal. The rhyme scheme is a a b a, b b c b, c c d c, d d d d, and it links or interlocks each stanza with the next. To end the poem, Frost uses the same rhyming sound throughout the last stanza and repeats the last line.

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