Make a critical study of the symbolism in Robert Frost's poem "Desert Places."  

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Robert Frost's poem "Desert Places" is a deceptively simple short poem. In the first four-line stanza, the speaker passes by a snow-covered field. Though the snow covers the field, the speaker mentions that there are still "a few weeds and stubble" showing through the snow, suggesting the time of harvest in the fall when the field's crops were gathered. Life still exists, in a way, under the snow.

In the second stanza, the speaker says the woods own the field as if to say that the woods - nature and wildness - have control over this man-constructed field. The animals are "smothered in their lairs"; the word "smothered" implies that they are dead, not simply hibernating. The speaker includes himself in this quiet, snow-covered scene. He says, the "loneliness includes me unawares."

In the third stanza, the loneliness and bleakness of the poem increases. The speaker states that the loneliness will grow before it lessens; the snow will fall deeper before it stops. And this snow will cover everything with its blankness, its lack of expression. Curiously, Frost uses the word "benighted" here to describe the snow. The word "benighted" is usually used to describe something covered in darkness or someone who is ignorant (in the dark intellectually). This suggests that the snow is wiping out all thought, making it a complete blank. 

In the final stanza, the speaker says that "They" - nature? the gods? mankind? - cannot frighten him "with their empty spaces/Between stars." This emptiness - the void of the universe and the huge stretches of nothing - don't scare the speaker. Instead, he finds these kinds of desert places like the snow-covered field and its emptiness more frightening. Again, Frost's choice of language here is important. He uses the word "desert" to describe these empty places. However, the snow-covered field is what we would typically think of as a desert, it is isolated, lifeless, and dreadful. For the speaker, these desert places on earth are more lonely than the black blankness of the universe. 

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