How does the speaker convey the feeling of alienation in “Acquainted with the Night”?

In “Acquainted with the Night,” the speaker conveys the feeling of alienation through repeated self-reference, the near-absence of other people, and references to elements of the setting. Along with distance and emptiness, the motifs of darkness and rain are especially notable.

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In his poem “Acquainted with the Night,” Robert Frost presents a speaker who appears to feel isolated from the physical and social aspects of their community. Frost conveys this speaker’s isolation by making them a first-person narrator who repeatedly refers to themselves. The word “I” word appears in...

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In his poem “Acquainted with the Night,” Robert Frost presents a speaker who appears to feel isolated from the physical and social aspects of their community. Frost conveys this speaker’s isolation by making them a first-person narrator who repeatedly refers to themselves. The word “I” word appears in six of the 14 lines, and “me” or “my” in two more. This aspect of isolation is strengthened by the almost total absence of other people. The narrator notices but does not look at “a watchman” and hears, but does not see, a distant “interrupted cry.” They specifically mention that others are not communicating with them, “not to call me back or say good-bye.”

The poem’s structure further emphasizes this focus on the solitary speaker. Lines 1 through 5, 7, and 14 all use the same structure, beginning with “I have.” This type of repetition is the literary device of anaphora. Line 14 repeats Line 1 exactly. While the speaker has been engaged in a range of actions, they pertain to darkness, night, the absence of light, or rain. They specifically include that their walks take them out and back in the rain.

These aspects of the setting are connected with the emotional quality of sadness, as the speaker refers to one road they look down as “the saddest city lane.” Although the night is illuminated by a clock (or perhaps the moon), the lack of light dominates the poem through the repetition of the first line. Rather than knowing people, it is the dark night that the speaker knows.

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