Most often discussed in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is its rich visual, auditory, and tactile imagery. Readers cannot help but picture a dark forest being blanketed by white snow. The scene is nearly silent and cold. Although less frequently analyzed, another type of imagery—kinesthetic—is equally important in creating the snowy scene that confronts the traveler.
Kinesthetic imagery is the vivid description of action to help the reader visualize and feel motion. This type of imagery creates the sensation of movement and associated feelings.
Both the poem’s title and first stanza emphasize the speaker’s act of “stopping” or not moving. A traveler pauses at a complete standstill in the middle of a quiet forest to watch the “woods fill up with snow.” In contrast to the man, snow is falling and “filling up” the deserted woodland. This example of kinesthetic imagery conveys the motion of falling snow; it also creates the visual image of snow piling up, as well as auditory images of muted flakes forming an ever-thickening blanket of silence. Man is static while nature moves; nonetheless, both man and nature are peaceful.
In the second stanza, Frost personifies the traveler’s equine companion:
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near.
This kinetic image also emphasizes a lack of physical movement but suggests anthropomorphic action. Instead of running, rearing, snorting, or neighing in protest, the horse stops with the traveler and wonders what it going on, like a puzzled companion. When the horse does move, its small movement is described by this kinetic imagery:
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The horse swings his head slightly in order to ring the bells (an example of auditory imagery) and does not use a larger gesture like jerking up its head, stomping its hoofs, or swishing its tail. The animal’s subtle motion represents its unspoken conversation with the traveler.
The traveler notes that
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
Snow is gently falling down by the “sweep” of a breeze. This kinetic image includes auditory imagery (the sound of mildly blowing wind) and tactile imagery (soft, “downy” snowflakes).
Despite stopping, the traveler must resume his journey. He has “miles to go before [he] sleep[s].”
With this kinetic image, he emphasizes that he still has quite a way to trek before he can stop again to rest. The repetition of “miles” implies an interminable distance. The repetition of “sleep” is an example of organic imagery—vivid descriptions that communicate and invoke internal sensations (like pain, hunger, fatigue) and emotions. The reader feels the traveler’s weariness in having journeyed some distance already with yet many more miles still to cover. The reader also feels the traveler’s dread in having so much farther to go in order to complete his odyssey.