How do "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost, compare in the use of imagery to convey meaningI understand how Frost's imagery paints the picture for...

How do "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost, compare in the use of imagery to convey meaning

I understand how Frost's imagery paints the picture for us, but how does it convey the meaning in the two poems?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the speaker stops apparently to simply to revel in the beauty of the snowy blanket on trees and fields. However, because the speaker mentions the "frozen lake," there is an indication that the poem may not be merely an aesthetic experience of nature.  The auditory image of the "harness bells" which recall the speaker to reality is overshadowed by the silence:  the "sound's the sweep" suggests in its allitertion the sound of the wind.  In the last stanza, the idea of the alluring quality of nature is present in this poem as it is in "The Road Not Taken"; the speaker is tempted to go deeper into the woods, but his obligations--"miles to go before I sleep" prevent him from doing so.

Like the speaker in "The Road Not Taken," this speaker avoids the lure of the more tempting choice, a choice that is not dark as in the other poem, "but just as fair."  In fact, the paths are in "a yellow wood," where it is sunny, rather than frozen and dark.  But, perhaps, because the choice is between two paths that so similar, or because he does not have other obligations, the speaker of "The Road Not Taken" is ambivalent about which to choose, so ambivalent that he is

...telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence

whereas the speaker of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" simply reminds himself of his obligations:  "I have miles to go before I sleep."

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both these poems use nature imagery to portray a journey.  Many have likened this to the journey of life.

In "The Road Not Taken" the speaker is presented with two paths: one well worn, the other not so well worn.  He chooses the "one less travelled by."  This is the commonly used image presented to teenagers and young adults when they reach a crossroads in life.  The old advice to blaze your own path, avoid the easy route, take the journey many choose not to take, dare to be different.

In "Stopping by Woods" the speaker isn't choosing a less worn path.  Rather, he's choosing an unlikely destination, as even his levelheaded horse is surprised he's chosen this spot to stop on "the darkest evening of the year."  The meaning doesn't seem to be so overtly suggesting a difficult journey, but it is a journey nonetheless: "Miles to go before I sleep..." (especially if we read sleep here to mean die.)

Read the study guide:
The Road Not Taken

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