Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Analysis
by Robert Frost

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Analysis

In this poem, Frost uses imagery, connotation, and repetition in order to convey the idea that nature is a tranquil place that can make us feel peaceful when little else does. Frost uses a visual image when the speaker describes watching the "woods fill up with snow." We can easily imagine the sight of the snow piling deeper and deeper around the tall brown trees in this forested area. Frost also uses an auditory image when the speaker describes the only other sound he hears—other than his horse's harness bells jingling—as being the "sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake." The sound of the wind shushing through the trees and sweeping up the soft and fluffy snowflakes would be next to nothing, but the specific description is so much more effective in setting the scene than simply describing the woods as nearly silent.

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Further, the poem uses words like easy, downy, lovely, and deep, all of which have positive connotations. These words, along with the images I've already described, combine to create a mood of tranquility and calm. Despite the fact that this is the "darkest evening of the year," and the speaker finds himself alone in the woods—circumstances which could make feel one uneasy or even fearful—this speaker seems to revel in the quiet and the darkness and the beauty he finds around him.

Finally, the repetition of the penultimate line—"And miles to go before I sleep"—conveys a yearning, or the sense of longing that the speaker has, to stay here. Although he clearly wishes to remain here, at peace in these woods, he feels that he has commitments which he has no choice but to honor. He has "promises to keep" that prevent him from resting here for long. He, in fact, has quite a long way to go—"miles" in a horse-drawn vehicle—before he can stop for a real rest. It is obvious, however, that he feels drawn to remain in this peaceful place, set apart from the village and anyone who might disrupt the tranquility he feels here.

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Robert Frost wrote to Louis Untermeyer in 1923 that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” would be his “best bid for remembrance.” Frost’s instincts were correct, but like Walt Whitman’s famous “Captain, My Captain,” Frost’s poem is often remembered for all the wrong reasons. Part of its appeal, surely, is its simple and accessible narrative, which contains only sixteen words that are more than one syllable. In addition, Frost’s end-stopped lines, accentuated by the insistent rhyme, make the poem easy to remember.

Frost, born in California, worked hard at developing the persona for which he is now mostly known—the farmer-poet from New England, the writer of Currier & Ives miniatures. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is Frost’s most memorable “genre study” in his “New England” manner, though examination of the poem reveals nothing distinctively regional about it at all. Despite Frost’s reputation as a regionalist, his lyrics are generally so underdescribed that they tend toward allegory or parable. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is an example of Frost’s art in this respect: It gains its power by suggestion and implication, in its stark understatement, powerfully conveying a depth and fullness of human experience. It is, as Frost remarked, “loaded with ulteriority.”

Criticism of the poem has generally treated it allegorically or biographically, and it is easy to see why. Like “The Road Not Taken,” another frequently misread lyric, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is almost earnest in its simplicity, though close attention to the text shows it to be more crafty than at first it appears. For example, as is often the case in Frost’s first-person lyrics, the speaker of the poem is not to be mistaken for the poet himself, nor is the “I” in a Frost lyric always credible or aware of the complexity of his reflections.

Thus, in this poem, the speaker indicates that his horse thinks it “queer” for them to stop, though it is evident...

(The entire section is 2,656 words.)