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 syntax, imagery, themes, and metaphors are in the poem?

Expert Answers

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The first line has inverted syntax (the subject and predicate are placed at the end):

Whose woods these are I think I know.

The imagery is as follows:

  • natural imagery: "woods," "snow," "frozen lake", "downy flake"
  • sound imagery: "sweep of easy wind"; "bells"
  • light/dark imagery: "snow" vs. "The darkest evening of the year."
  • man-made imagery: "farmhouse," "harness," "village"

The themes:

  • Duty and Responsibility: "promises to keep"
  • Beauty: "the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake."
  • Return to Nature (and this is the motif / metaphor as well):

With sadness, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" examines just how difficult it has become in the modern world for man to stay in touch with nature. The poem is made up of contrasting images of the natural and the man-made: the woods and the village, the farmhouse and the lake, even the horse and the harness-bells. The speaker is enchanted with the things of nature, but is constantly reminded of human things, and, after a few minutes of giving in to the enchantment, decides with regret that this return to nature cannot last. In this poem humanity is represented not just by objects but by the concept of ownership. The first two words focus attention on an absent character about whom we only find out two things: that he lives in the village, away from nature, and that he owns the woods. It is the irony of this, that the owner does not appreciate what he has, that establishes the poem's mood. Man, it tells us, is wasteful.


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