In Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," what are some of the narrator's objectives?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Probably Robert Frost's most famous poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is famously ambiguous and hard to interpret. Though it's tough to discern whether or not the narrator has a definitive "objective," if you had to pick one, it's possible to argue that the narrator's main objective is to illustrate the conflict between the desire for rest and the need to fulfill one's commitments.

The most crucial stanza in the poem is the last one, which reads as follows:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. (13-16)

In this stanza, it's clear that the narrator is attracted to the woods, but also has commitments to fulfill before he can "sleep" or rest. Many scholars argue that the woods symbolize death and mortality, and that the narrator is struggling with the desire for rest in death and the need to continue living (hence the "miles to go"). This reading is persuasive and adds many layers of depth to the poem, but it is not the only possible interpretation. In any case, it's clear that the narrator is longing for some kind of rest, and whether that's the rest found in death, or merely the rest gained by pausing and enjoying a peaceful natural scene, is somewhat moot. Overall, the narrator's objective seems to be the illustration of the tension between the desire for rest and the responsibility to fulfill one's duty. This discussion could be expanded to the tension between the desire for death and the need to keep living, but that is only one possible interpretation of a short but highly suggestive poem. 

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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