illustration of a snowy forest with a cabin in the distance

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

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What is the inner conflict in man as expressed in the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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The primary and most evident conflict for the narrator (or overall "man" as indicated in the question) is between his responsibilities and desires. That is, the narrator (and his horse) have "promises to keep" as well as "miles to go before I sleep." But suddenly there appears a dark wood expressed with such a dream-like beauty that readers might be excused for believing that the entire poem is actually a dream (and who wants to be woken from such an extraordinary dream?).

The need to continue on toward home is expressed through the actions of the horse, who likely knows this path and has never stopped in this place before now, but this time:

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near
And later:
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.  
There is no mistake. The rider seems torn. He wishes to stay, to "watch his woods fill up with snow." There is no village nearby, there is very little sound, and it is extremely dark. As humans we are drawn to unusual visions of beauty and nature, but we also have responsibilities, and thus arises the conflict, in which is revealed the conflict between our desire to admire the world as it is and our need to fill up our days with activities, our work, our travel from one place to another--in short, our everyday voice to keep busy.
By the end of the poem, horse and rider have not yet continued on. Perhaps they will leave this place in just a moment for the promised bed and sleep, but just for now, for just this moment, they are transfixed, and the need to move is quieted by the human need for peace and beauty.

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