In Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," if the speaker refers to God as the owner of the woods, is it possible to read this poem as an exploration of faith and doubt?
poem as allegory
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Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of the best-known and most popular of all American lyrics. The temptation to treat the poem allegorically – that is, to read it as referring to something other than the topic announced in the title, has always been strong. Frost, in fact, warned against this temptation and suggested that the poem means quite enough simply as written. Of course, no poet can entirely control the ways readers will respond to his work, and it does seem significant that this poem has so often received symbolic readings.
Is the speaker in the poem referring to God as the owner of the woods? This seems unlikely. If Frost had wanted to suggest this possible meaning, he could certainly have done so very easily. Instead, he has the speaker make some very specific comments that suggest that the speaker is not referring to God. For example, the speaker says of the owner of the woods that
His house is in the village . . .
He will not see me stopping here . . . .
If we want to see the owner of the woods as God, these lines create problems. By saying that the owner of the woods lives in a “house . . . in the village,” the speaker seems to imply that he is referring to an actual human being living in an actual small town on earth. If the speaker were referring to God, he might instead said something like “his home is in the distance” or, if he really wanted to refer to God even more clearly, he could have said “his home is up in heaven.” Even more problematic, however, is the next line: “He will not see me stopping here.” If the speaker really had God in mind as the owner of the woods, he would have known that God, by definition, can see anything happening anywhere at any time.
In a sense, of course, God is indeed the owner of the woods as well as of everything else on earth, but there seems little warrant in this poem for imagining the owner of these particular woods as God. The owner, almost certainly, is the kind of person the speaker implies: an actual human being who lives in a village.
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