Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Whatever “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” means, it is evident that the poem makes meaning; it has suffered many designs upon it, and even Frost thought that critics had pressed it too much for meaning. Nevertheless, the poem contains tensions and oppositions that are characteristic of Frost’s symbolic terrain in general and of his poetics as well.
Woods are a pervasive image in Frost’s poetry, evident in his earliest poems as well as in his last. Dark and unowned, woods are a metaphor of life’s wildness, and Frost contrasts them, generally, with places owned by human beings and made artful by their craft. Domesticated spaces such as pastures, clearings, even homes, show the presence of human beings; in these places they make themselves at home, spiritually and physically. In “The Constant Symbol,” Frost observes that “strongly spent is synonymous with kept.” The human spirit must risk and spend itself, paradoxically, in order to fulfill its nature.
Poets risk themselves and their skill as they create a poem out of the wildness of language. Consequently, readers of Frost’s verse, like the speaker stopping to watch the woods fill with snow, find themselves in a typically Frostian place: The poem is a partly wild, partly domesticated place, demanding risk and commitment, involvement and acceptance. Poems, like woods, are lovely, dark, and deep, but only if one will risk entering them more deeply and will let them work...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
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