What is the central theme of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Expert Answers
troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frost focuses mostly on the theme of nature, and how the speaker's duties keep him from stopping and enjoying the beauty of nature.  He almost envies the owner of the woods.  He owns this beautiful land, yet he lives in town.  So there's a hint there that the owner does not appreciate what he has.

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though"

Even the horse gives his bells a little jingle as if he knows he's not supposed to be stopping.  It's as if the horse too has a sense of duty.  He understands that he is to keep moving and will stop when he gets to his stable. It's almost a reversal in roles here.  The man should be the one who continues on and the horse, being considered a part of nature himself, should long to stay a while.  Here it's the opposite.

The speaker longs to stay and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but knows he must move on after his brief stop.  He has "miles to go before [he] sleep[s]."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two previous posts show how the interpretation of literature is fundamentally arbitrary.  There's no one right answer -- the first says it's about death, the second about accomplishing duties.

The eNotes discussion of themes of the poem argues that there are three main ones:

  • Beauty
  • Return to nature and how difficult it is to do this given the demands of everyday society.
  • Duty and responsibility

As a non-literature person, I have always been struck by the beauty of the imagery or maybe it's the rhythm of the poem.  But I've always thought it was a beautiful and soothing poem.

If I had to pick what I think is the central idea, I would agree that it's about the second bullet above.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of the poem, the speaker stops in the woods and simply enjoys the scene before him. He's in the country, and it is snowing. The beauty of it overwhelms him, and it's so quiet that the speaker hears nothing but a very gentle wind. He wants to go further into the woods, but if he gets lost, he won't be able to fulfill his obligations that he has in town, and he takes his promises to others very seriously. The speaker contrasts the man-made modern world with the elegant beauty of nature. He's more attracted to the natural world of the falling snow and the quiet, peaceful setting of nature, but he's pulled away from it by his obligations in the modern world.

jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems that the narrator is contemplating death on this "darkest night of the year." Not that he is thinking about ending his own life, but he feels the lure of death that will be there later for him. Death looks to him "lovely, dark, and deep." Not scary, not grim, but rather welcoming, almost a relief.

But it is not yet his time, for he has connections with other people, "promises to keep" and a long way to go before the end finally comes..."miles to go before I sleep." Yet, it feels like he is comforted by the thought of the end in the distance. One day, sure, but not right now.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is about taking time to appreciate the beauty and wonder of nature. The speaker is overwhelmed by the sight of the snow on the fields, and he stops to enjoy it. He must move on, however, because he has responsibilities and "miles to go before I sleep."

Visit the links below for more information.

lit24 | Student

Robert Frosts's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (1923) which describes a  hauntingly pastoral scene of the barren "woods on a snowy evening" expresses the theme that one must concentrate on fulfilling  his promises and accomplishing his duties without being distracted by the pleasures of life.

The lyric describes a rider on a horse keen to reach home on a cold wintry night when he is captivated by the beautiful sight of snow falling on the barren woods nearby. The rider pauses to surreptitiously enjoy this enchanting sight and for a moment forgets that he has to reach home as quickly as possible. However, his "little horse" becomes restless and reminds him to continue his homeward journey. The rider at once continues his homeward journey reminding himself that although the sight of the snow 'filling' up the woods may be enticingly beautiful, that he has other more important tasks to accomplish and that he had better get home as quickly as possible.

karan_bhatia | Student

   The poem “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” has been written by Robert Frost. The main idea of the poem is that nature is vast and beautiful but man cannot leave his responsibilities and spend his life in looking at the natural beauty. The woods are beautiful but the poet can not stay there because he has to keep his promises. Thus life is s

user4845094 | Student

The poem is about seeing beauty on something. There are things in life that you would just stop by and appreciate beauty even on small things. That's what Frost want's us to realize. That it is necessary to stop on things that amazes us.

totsumong | Student

This poem expresses the beauty of nature during winter season the poet on his journey to certain destination sees a woods filled with snow and he is enjoying the beauty of the woods and the owner whom he knows was not aware that he was appreciating the calmness and the beautiful scene of his woods. His horse must think that its very strange for him to stop by in a forest where there was no farm house and night approaching with freizing wind and chilling cold so his horse gives his harness bell a shake to ask if there was any mistake to stop in a woods near a frozen lake and that too during the darkest evening of the year. The only other sounds are the easy wind and downy flake that the poet was enjoying, he(poet) sees the woods lovely dark and deep and as he appreciate and enjoy the snow filled woods he is reminded of his duties and appointments that he has to keep, which he must finish it before he sleep that is death.

           Its a poem about the gift of nature its beauty and freshness which we must appreciate it but keeping in mind that as a human being we have our own duties to do, a responsibility that comes to us which we must perform it before we die.

Read the study guide:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question