Why is he out in the woods, instead of at his house in the village? Would he be angry? Would he befriend the poem's speaker?

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The speaker probably does not live in the village but lives on a farm like Frost himself. He has been to the village to buy household necessities and is on his way back home. Many have suggested that the poem contains a hidden death wish. His behavior may be simpler than that. He may have had a fight with his wife and is just in no hurry to return home. Maybe he would like to delay until he knows she is sound asleep. Since it is "the darkest evening of the year," meaning the longest night of the year, it is very close to Christmas. The speaker may have bought Christmas presents in town in addition to food and whatever else they needed at home. They may have been planning a Christmas dinner.

Frost once said:

Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.

In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" he introduces drama by making the speaker seem guilty and troubled. He is afraid of being seen by the owner of the woods. Even his horse seems to be wondering why he is stopping there. The horse is not capable of thought, but it knows they are on their way home and it is behaving the way horses usually behave when they know they are going to a stable where they will be unhitched and get something to eat. These two things are sufficient to make the poem dramatic. Imagine the difference if Frost only wrote about how beautiful the woods looked in the falling snow! It would sound like a cliche, or like Christmas card verse. 

Frost was probably inspired to write this poem because of a recent experience, which might have had some elements of a religious experience. He saw a beautiful sight and was struck by the wonder of nature and the mystery of existence. But characteristically he wanted to make his poem dramatic because, as he said, "it is drama or nothing." 

coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

poetry is very subjective and every poem speaks to every reader in a different way. In the poem 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' by Robert Frost, many readers get the feeling from the language and tone that the speaker is on his way somewhere, and is expected there. That is why he cannot stop too long - even though he might like to, as he finds the falling snowflakes almost hypnotic, and the silence and emptiness mysterious and inviting rather than cold and forbidding. In other poems however, Frost has a different attitude to isolation, so you might want to look a t those too for a comparison. His host might well be cross if he was late, and we get the feeling he is already his acquaintance.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

The speaker 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. On another level, however, the stopping may signify a reluctance to move forward, a fear of the future, and so on. The speaker apparently feels embarrassed by the stopping, for he notes that his "little horse" must be taking exception to the action. The speaker seems to be projecting onto the horse his own ideas that 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. Some critics have asserted that the house in the village is a church, and that therefore the woody area belongs to God. The implications of this reading raise many speculations among people with varying religious backgrounds.

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