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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How is the poet misunderstood by his own horse in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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In Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the horse reacts to the driver’s pause in two places:

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near  (lines 5-6)


He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.  (lines 9-10)

The horse is used to stopping only at some kind of building as a destination – to deliver something by carriage, or to visit someone’s house, perhaps. But here, its owner has stopped by a forest, just to watch the snow fall. He pauses long enough that the horse has to question the action, in the only ways it can. One could consider that the horse represents the practical and business-dealing side of life, and the driver represents the human aspect: the appreciative, artistic, romantic, and emotional side of life. Both sides meet at this edge of trees during a snowfall. I don’t believe the poet is necessarily misunderstood by the horse as much as he is questioned. "Why are we stopping? There’s nothing here." In the realm of practicality and commerce, this is true. There is no business to conduct here. But life consists of more than just business. The horse may not understand this truth.

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