What is a major theme of the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A theme is the statement, directly expressed or implied, that a text makes about its subject. This particular text seems to comment on both the positive effect nature can have on us as well as on the nature of obligations and responsibilities and their contrast with what we might prefer to do with our time. First, then, the poem conveys the idea that nature has the ability to impact us for the better. The speaker cannot help but stop in the woods to "watch [them] fill up with snow." They are so beautiful—"lovely, dark and deep"—and he is comforted by their tranquility and relative silence compared to the village. Second, the poem conveys the idea that what we want is often in conflict with our responsibilities or obligations. The speaker says,

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

His repetition of the next-to-last line seems to convey a wistfulness or longing to remain in this tranquil place, but he cannot because he has responsibilities that call him away.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As with most of Robert Frost's poetry, there are several major themes to be found within "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Different readers will define different interpretations as being the "major theme."

Certainly, one theme contained within the poem is the appreciation of the natural setting in which the speaker finds himself. He stops his travels to watch the falling snow and listen to the soft sounds of the wind in the woods. He may be regretting the difficulty of remaining in tune with nature as his horse shakes its harness and interrupts the solitude.

On a more introspective level, the "lovely, dark and deep" woods may be seen as a symbol for a peaceful time in the speaker's future - death, perhaps? The speaker is obviously attracted to the tranquil nature of the wooded area he is observing, but he has obligations to fulfill before he can "sleep."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial