How does one's understanding of ambiguity help in the reading of the poem?

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Jessica Pope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, the speaker's sense of purpose, direction, and meaning are full of ambiguity. The reader's own appreciation of the ambiguity of life helps the reader to identify with the speaker and appreciate the moment.

For example, the speaker acknowledges that he may or may not know "whose woods these are" as he stops to take a look. The speaker is traveling somewhere and has an agenda he wants to stick to. Yet the lull and beauty of the woods also call to him. The speaker notes the strangeness of his stopping, admitting that even his horse "must think it queer / to stop without a farmhouse near."

An appreciation of ambiguity helps the reader to identify the feelings of uncertainty and wonder in the poem. This mood of overall ambiguity helps root the poem firmly within the domain of poetic realism; many, if not most of our moments are lived without knowing the correct course of action. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening opens us to the possibility that all decisions are equally correct, and that ambiguity is (rather than something to be avoided) an essential characteristic of human life.