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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

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Discussion Topic

Analysis of literary elements in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Summary:

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" uses several literary elements including imagery, symbolism, and rhyme scheme. The imagery of the snowy woods creates a serene and contemplative mood, while the woods symbolize peace and possibly death. The poem's AABA rhyme scheme adds to its musical quality, reflecting the narrator's introspective journey.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Figures of speech are words used in a non-literal sense. In this poem, Frost is using literary devices or figures of speech to try to make a larger point about life. When he says, for instance, that he "thinks" he knows these woods, the word "thinks" suggests he doesn't really know them at all, for all that he passed them a thousand times. Of course, in a literal sense he knows them as a familiar landmark. The poem, however, is suggesting a different, deeper kind of knowing beyond the literal that only emerges when we take the time to stop and really see a scene we might have passed too many times to count.

"Downy flake" is a figure of speech. The flakes of snow falling are not literally made of down or soft bird feathers. They are made of frozen water. But by likening them to down, the narrator is trying to convey a sense of the dreamy beauty of the scene.

Likewise, in a literal sense, it is simply a waste of words to repeat the last line of the poem: "And miles to go before I sleep." Why would he do that? We have already heard the line. Repeating it, however, is a literary device. The poet doesn't have any reason to do this, except that he is trying to communicate a deeper truth. He repeats the lines, perhaps to indicate how very unwilling he is to leave a beautiful scene. He also repeats the line to emphasize, perhaps, that life's most important moments are found in the spaces between more "important" tasks. 

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is remarkably free of figurative language; most of the poem is stated factually, without metaphor or allegory. The narrator thinks he knows the owner of the woods, who lives in the village. The woods are "filling up with snow." The lake is frozen, the evening is dark, and the woods are "lovely... and deep."

While there are others, the obvious example of figurative language is seen in the narrator's personification of his horse, which seems puzzled by the narrator's decision to stop and look at the woods instead of continuing on the path.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
[...]
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
(Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," eNotes eText)

Of course, horses don't think abstractly enough to consider things "queer" or strange, and they cannot ask any specific question. Instead, the horse is simply accustomed to moving along the path, and is waiting for instruction; it could be shaking its bells to shake snow off its neck. The narrator, however, is feeling doubt about his course in life, and so humanizes the horse, projecting some of his doubt into otherwise instinctual actions.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

There are figures of speech in Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening." The narrator states that he has promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps.

Some critics think that the narrator is comtemplating suicide. Who else wood stop by woods on the darkest evening of the year to watch woods fill up with snow?

Even the little horse thinks it is strange to stop between the woods and frozen lake on the darkest evening of the year.

The last lines could be symbolic meaning a long life up ahead. Miles to go before I sleep could be a metaphor meaning the narrator has many years to go in life. Since he has made promises, he must carry on in life and not give up just yet:

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.
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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Let's go back and look at that "easy wind and downy flake" business. Is the wind actually "easy," by technical defintion? Or is Frost using figurative language here to make the reader sense that the wind is not harsh or bitter, but rather a gentle and light sensation? One could argue that both "easy wind" and "downy flake" utilize figurative language, in that neither description is completely literal. Downy is an adjective which most accurately described light feathers, such as goose down. However, snow is not feathers, and therefore, this description could be seen as figurative.  

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

The short answer to your question is no, in the sense that the poem contains no metaphors, similes or rhetorical flourishes. Frost narrates his experience in very simple language - most of the words are monosyllables - and direct narrative. Even his use of adjectives is sparing in what is a very visual poem: the words 'lovely, dark and deep' are used of the woods, the lake is 'frozen', it is the 'darkest evening of the year', and there is a 'sweep of easy wind and downy flake' (these two the nearest to metaphor in the poem), but beyond this Frost leaves it to the reader to create the scene. I don't think the horse is is meant to be in any way figurative either: a horse used to travelling this route without stopping might well be puzzled by this pause, especially at the end of what has perhaps been a hard day's work.

However, that is to tell only half the story. The poem as a whole is seen as figurative, even symbolic, by many readers. We have to ask ourselves what this journey might represent beyond its literal sense. Is it a journey of life, a life in which we all too often have to curb our natural impulses and desires because of the pressures and 'rules' that govern us? Is the poem saying something important about decision-making, ethical dilemmas, beauty, duty, impulse? In other words, is the poem about abstract and philosophical issues despite its simple language describing concrete experience?

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

There are no similes in Frost's poem, but there are a number of literary devices the poet employs to create a tone of physical and emotional isolation, both states the speaker does not find particularly uncomfortable.

For example, Frost turns the traditional expectations of "dark" and "cold" into spaces which are more welcoming than alarming. While "the darkest evening of the year" might mean foreboding in another poem, here it implies a state in which the speaker feels at ease, cloaked in darkness and able to observe the woods at his leisure, without anyone asking him what he is doing or why he is doing it. The evening, rather than being cold and unpleasant, is described as being enveloped in "easy wind" and "downy flake." The speaker also calls the woods "lovely."

As for figurative language, the speaker's horse is subjected to some mild personification, when the animal is depicted as thinking it "queer / To stop without a farmhouse near."

Figurative language is also employed in the twice repeated final lines, "And miles to go before I sleep." While on the one hand, it may simply mean that the speaker must continue on a great distance before finding a bed, it may also figuratively mean that he has a long life ahead of him before "eternal rest" draws nigh.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

A simile is a comparison that normally uses "like" or "as"; however, this poem has no similes.  One of the literary devices that is not figurative language that is used that is obvious is repetition.  It is used in the last 2 lines of the poem, which is very important.  Repetition is used for emphasis; therefore, Frost must have felt the last 2 lines to be very important since they are identical.  More than likely, Frost was having his narrator repeat the last 2 lines because the narrator realizes he must now return to the "real world."  He has had his moment of connecting to nature; however, his horse has shaken his harness bells and is reminding the narrator that they have a long way to go before they get to their destination.

There are a couple of instances of alliteration, in line 4 and line 11.  Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of 2 or more words.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

The first thing to notice is the meter of the poem. Frost uses iambic tetrameter (four repetitions of an "unstressed-stressed" pattern), which seems to recreate the sound of a horse's hoofbeats. It's a pleasant sound that lulls the reader and could make him feel part of the scene. The poem is filled with imagery that helps set a peaceful atmosphere and tone. Through Frost's words, one can visualize snow falling lightly in the woods while a solitary rider and his horse are the only witnesses. The use of alliteration in the first stanza ("w", "wh", "h") creates soft sounds, much like the evening wind blowing thorugh the trees. Assonance ("o" and "ah" sounds) creates a similar effect. Frost uses a hyperbole when the narrator says that he will "watch his woods fill up with snow", and that aids the imagery. In the second stanza, the horse is personified and acts as a witness with the rider to the peaceful scene. The rider is jarred back to reality by the fourth stanza with the line "But I have promises to keep"; however, the use of repetition in the lines "and miles to go before I sleep" almost makes it seem as if the rider is reluctant to leave and is trying to convince himself that he must be on his way.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

This poem uses imagery, language that conveys sensory information, in order to help us understand how solitary the speaker is, and how dark and beautiful the woods are.  The second stanza is most concerned with visual imagery: things we can see. There is no "farmhouse near" and the speaker has stopped to rest "Between the woods and frozen lake" on this, the "darkest evening of the year." It is easy for us to visualize his location with the help of these images. The third stanza is most concerned with auditory imagery: things we can hear. We can imagine the sound when the horse "gives his harness bells a shake" as well as the near-silence of soft-blowing breeze in "the sweep of easy wind and downy flake." The words, "downy flake," work as a visual image too: we can imagine the kind of snow that is fluffy and drifts slowly to the ground.

Some readers also interpret "sleep" as a metaphor for death in the final two lines which repeat, "And miles to go before I sleep." In this reading, the speaker's solitary journey through the woods—the "miles" he goes—becomes a metaphor for life, for all the work we must do before we can go to our final rest, so to speak.

In addition, I agree with the other commenter who discussed the light personification of the horse in the second and third stanza. To attribute the abilities to "think it queer" to stop in such a solitary spot and to shake his harness bells "to ask if there is some mistake" qualifies as personification, which is when the poet gives human characteristics or abilities to something nonhuman.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

As many scholars and readers have noted, Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" has a decidedly small amount of figurative language. Indeed, the poem is direct and concise, as though the poet wanted to trim down any unnecessary baggage. There are, however, a few instances of figurative language (or, as you say, figures of speech). For example, Frost says "My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near" (5-6), and this line actually contains some very subtle personification. The horse might be acting perturbed by his rider's unexpected change in routine, but he certainly isn't actually mulling the event over in his mind like a human being, or thinking it "queer." In that case, Frost actually uses some slight personification by framing the horse's actions with subtly human characteristics.  

Don't let the brevity of this poem fool you: the piece may be concise, but it communicates a vast array of meaning, much of which has been hotly contested by critics. As such, though "Woods" doesn't employ many examples of figurative language, it's still much more complex than it at first appears. As such, it's well worth reading and analyzing closely.  

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Often, people interpret sleep, in the final two lines, as a symbol for death. There is something very compelling and tranquil about this moment in the woods. The speaker watches the forest "fill up with snow" on this, the "darkest evening of the year." It is nearly silent, except for the sound of the "easy wind," and there is no one else around for miles and miles. He seems clearly to be on his way somewhere, but his attention has been arrested by the serene beauty of the woods. When he says that he has "promises to keep," he seems to be referencing his obligations: all of those things that keep him moving on when he'd really prefer to just stay here in this place, now. He says that he has "miles to go before [he] sleep[s]" twice, and the repetition makes it seem as though this idea carries extra significance. Sleep is often symbolic of death, and the narrator's longing to simply stay in the beautiful woods forever makes it seem as though he could be wishing to lay all his burdens down figuratively, in death, as well as literally, in sleep.

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Are there any figures of speech in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

To be honest, Frost normally writes in a style that is very simple and marked mostly by the absence of figures of speech. In this poem, for example, the closest I can come to finding anything like a simile, metaphor or personification is the implied metaphor in the following quote:

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Here, woods literally cannot "fill up" with snow as they are not an enclosed container. The implied metaphor compares the woods to a restricted area or a kind of massive walled-in section of land that can fill up. The implied metaphor is used therefore to exaggerate the amount of snow that is falling and how the level of snow on the ground is rising so quickly. Apart from this one example, you might want to focus on the symbolism of the poem. If you do a search for this on enotes you will find many responses.

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What imagery is used in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Most often discussed in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is its rich visual, auditory, and tactile imagery. Readers cannot help but picture a dark forest being blanketed by white snow. The scene is nearly silent and cold. Although less frequently analyzed, another type of imagery—kinesthetic—is equally important in creating the snowy scene that confronts the traveler.

Kinesthetic imagery is the vivid description of action to help the reader visualize and feel motion. This type of imagery creates the sensation of movement and associated feelings.

Both the poem’s title and first stanza emphasize the speaker’s act of “stopping” or not moving. A traveler pauses at a complete standstill in the middle of a quiet forest to watch the “woods fill up with snow.” In contrast to the man, snow is falling and “filling up” the deserted woodland. This example of kinesthetic imagery conveys the motion of falling snow; it also creates the visual image of snow piling up, as well as auditory images of muted flakes forming an ever-thickening blanket of silence. Man is static while nature moves; nonetheless, both man and nature are peaceful.

In the second stanza, Frost personifies the traveler’s equine companion:

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near.

This kinetic image also emphasizes a lack of physical movement but suggests anthropomorphic action. Instead of running, rearing, snorting, or neighing in protest, the horse stops with the traveler and wonders what it going on, like a puzzled companion. When the horse does move, its small movement is described by this kinetic imagery:

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.

The horse swings his head slightly in order to ring the bells (an example of auditory imagery) and does not use a larger gesture like jerking up its head, stomping its hoofs, or swishing its tail. The animal’s subtle motion represents its unspoken conversation with the traveler.

The traveler notes that

The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Snow is gently falling down by the “sweep” of a breeze. This kinetic image includes auditory imagery (the sound of mildly blowing wind) and tactile imagery (soft, “downy” snowflakes).

Despite stopping, the traveler must resume his journey. He has “miles to go before [he] sleep[s].”

With this kinetic image, he emphasizes that he still has quite a way to trek before he can stop again to rest. The repetition of “miles” implies an interminable distance. The repetition of “sleep” is an example of organic imagery—vivid descriptions that communicate and invoke internal sensations (like pain, hunger, fatigue) and emotions. The reader feels the traveler’s weariness in having journeyed some distance already with yet many more miles still to cover. The reader also feels the traveler’s dread in having so much farther to go in order to complete his odyssey.

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What imagery is used in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the imagery generated by the horse engages the senses. In visual terms, we can easily imagine the horse shaking its head as the snow begins to fall. In auditory terms, we can hear the sound of the harness bells as the horse shakes his head. This breaks the peace of a scene that is quiet and placid.

Frost's use of adjectives is extremely helpful in making his images come to life. He refers to the horse as a “little horse,” for example. He expertly conveys the scene by describing it as taking place during “darkest evening.” We also have the “frozen lake” and the “easy wind and downy flake.” We are left in no doubt just what kind of scene is being depicted here.

All these images combine to give us an accurate picture of the scene that Frost wishes to convey. Thanks to the vivid imagery that he uses—such as the woods filling up with snow and relating their “lovely” depth and darkness—we are able to insert ourselves into the scene depicted in the poem. As the poem deals with universal themes, most notably the perennial struggle between man and nature, this is important as we need to feel that the poem is speaking to us directly. The reader understands the speaker's longing to stay in the woods while knowing he cannot, as he has “miles to go” before he can rest.

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What imagery is used in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Imagery is a literary device in which the author uses descriptive language that vividly depicts any aspect of the poem, including physical, mental, or emotional aspects. These span setting, characters, objects, events, and ideas. Imagery is achieved by appeal to any of the five senses.

Robert Frost’s poem is set in a woods at night. The speaker relies primarily on visual imagery, as the reader joins the speaker in seeing the white color of “snow” against the “dark” woods. They create a sense of companionship by mentioning the “little horse.” At the same time Frost presents what the speaker actually sees, however, he also refers to the imagined setting and events. The speaker quickly refers to the “house” and “village” that they are not currently looking at but knows exists. They even draw the horse into this imaginative world, by referencing the “farmhouse” that the house supposedly misses.

Other aspects of “real” visual imagery include the “frozen lake” and the horse’s “harness bells.” Auditory images, relying on the sense of sound, include the sound that the bells presumably make, as well as the soft sound of the “easy wind” and the falling snowflakes. The tactile images are closely intertwined with the visual and auditory ones. The speaker does not mention if they are mounted or standing near the horse, so the reader must imagine the sensation of closeness between them. The “downy flake” prompts the reader to see the snow as lightweight and feathery. The last images are of imminent lengthy, forward motion in “miles to go.”

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What imagery is used in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

The first image Frost constructs is visual (sight): the speaker stops "To watch [the owner's] woods fill up with snow" (line 4).  We can imagine, based on this sensory description, what the scene looks like: the silent and darkened trees with the snow piling higher and higher around them, as though the forest could "fill up" (like a container) with snow.

The next image is visual (and perhaps also auditory) as well: the speaker describes this spot as secluded, "without a farmhouse near / Between the woods and frozen lake / The darkest evening of the year" (6-8).  The night is very dark and very still because the narrator is the only person around and there is no ambient light from a farmhouse.  Then, again, we see the woods he's described as well as the "frozen lake" (so it must also be very cold -- this could be considered tactile imagery).

The next image is auditory (hearing): "The only other sound's the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake" (12).  Thus it is really very quiet, with no human sounds at all, and all the narrator can hear is the gentle wind blowing the soft snowflakes around.  Because he describes the snowflakes as "downy," we might also consider this a visual image (they are the fat and fluffy kinds of snowflakes) and/or a tactile (touch) one (they are soft and light and airy snowflakes).

Thus, Frost combines mostly visual imagery with some auditory and tactile images to achieve a very tranquil mood for the poem.

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

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

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

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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What are the syntax, imagery, themes, and metaphors in the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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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What are the allegory and metaphors in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

I'm not sure I would call Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" allegorical in any sense.  One might say it's symbolic or that it involves an extended metaphor, but I don't see it as an allegory.

If the poem is symbolic or involves an extended metaphor, it is in the sense that the absent land owner, separated from nature, symbolizes humans who are separated from nature and don't realize what they're missing.  Connected to this interpretation is the opposition of the man-made (such as the barn), with the natural (the snow and woods).  The speaker/character, too, though he appreciates the natural, cannot stay to admire it because of human responsibilities. 

The poem may also close with a metaphor:

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Some commentators suggest this is a metaphor for death.  In this interpretation, though the speaker longs for the peace of death (sleep), he chooses to fulfill his responsibilities and promises, rather than to seek what he wishes. 

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