How does the stanzaic pattern of "Desert Places" organize the progression of the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, and conclusion

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Robert Frost's "Desert Places" is one of his bleakest poems.  The first stanza is a description of white snow falling at night covering a field.  This combination of white against a black expanse produces a sense of blankness, loneliness, or emptiness in the speaker, as we see in the next stanza.  The speaker has a sense of profound loneliness, being "absent-spirited," too low to either count the animals sheltered in their lairs or to matter to anyone.

The next stanza compares the lonely landscape to the speaker's inability to express himself, to communicate with others.  He feels as blank as the snow covered ground.  In this stanza, the words are chosen so carefully so that they apply both to the landscape and the speaker--both have "no expression, nothing to express." The last stanza compares the vastness of the universe with the speaker's internal state:  both are filled with "empty spaces," and the internal emptiness is far more frightening than the external.

In this way, the poem involves a series of contrasts and comparisons--white/black, high/low, outer/inner, universe/home.  Each stanza establishes these contrasts that become the means by which the speaker conveys his own inner void.  Even the stanzas themselves are arranged so that one line does not rhyme with the other three, as if to highlight the idea of loneliness in the vastness of the world.

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