What kind of imagery is used in "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a tender poem that relies heavily on imagery to reveal the vulnerability of its speaker. Imagery is commonly defined as descriptive language that appeals to the senses, offering the reader an opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste, and...

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Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a tender poem that relies heavily on imagery to reveal the vulnerability of its speaker. Imagery is commonly defined as descriptive language that appeals to the senses, offering the reader an opportunity to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch along with the speaker. In Frost's poem, the imagery allows us to notice what the speaker notices, all the while building a tone and theme that has proved memorable and poignant to readers for decades.

The speaker first notices that he is alone, commenting on how the owner of the land lives in the village far from the woods:

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though:
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year. "

Here in the beginning, Frost begins to use the imagery to set his tone, telling what the speaker sees around him and especially pointing out what he doesn't see—namely, no people. The details of being alone in the woods on the darkest evening of the year create a stark atmosphere, and we begin to acclimate our imagination to such bleakness, such desolation as to be surrounded by everything frozen and inhuman.

He continues the poem with more imagery of isolation, noting the bells of the horse's reins echoing in the wind and the appeal of the mysterious dark woods before him:

"He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

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."

Frost's diction surrounding his imagery are telling in the creation of the theme, since words like "easy," "downy," and "lovely" add a pleasant air to what could be described as "driving," "threatening," or "ominous." The diction paired with the imagery hint at a longing within the speaker to explore the unknown, to remain unseen, to disconnect from the world, whether temporarily or permanently. But then the shift of the final lines, the final images, tells how the speaker chooses to stay connected to his life and his duties despite his exhaustion or his secret desires. The final image, repeated for effect, directs our eyes, with the speaker's, back onto the empty miles before him, the path out of the woods rather than into it.

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Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is often taught in high school as an example of imagery and symbolism. As the above post noted, Frost appeals to several senses with the images he creates by word choice (also known as diction).

It is also important to realize that Frost is using imagery to do more than appeal to the readers’ senses, he is also using imagery to create a symbol that helps impart a deeper meaning to the story.

The poem concludes with the following lines:

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.

In this final stanza Frost uses imagery to shift the poem’s focus from description to symbolism.  The image of the woods as “lovely, dark, and deep” are considered by many to be a symbolic reference to what death is like. It prepares the reader for the final two lines, “And miles to go before I sleep,” which is emphasized by repetition, and refers to actual act of dying. 

By using images to create his symbol, Frost has made his poem memorable. The fact that the poem has been taught in school for decades attests to this fact.

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When we refer to "imagery" we are talking about a literary term meaning the images and pictures that authors "paint" as it were with their words. We mean the descriptions that are created that help us to imagine and picture the scene. In this excellent poem by Frost, the imagery relates to this tranquil and immensely peaceful scene of the man with his horse stopping "between the woods and the frozen lake" with snow all around. The most effective imagery tries to incorporate as many of the senses as possible to help us imagine the scene, and in this particular scene, we can visually see the "lovely, dark, and deep" woods, we can hear the "harness bells" of the horse and the "sweep/Of easy wind and downy flake," and obviously the snow and the "frozen lake" helps us to feel the cold of the scene. These details all build up the image of the spot where the speaker has paused in his journey.

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