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 is the inner conflict expressed in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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The primary and most evident conflict for the narrator (or overall "man" as indicated in the question) is between his responsibilities and desires. That is, the narrator (and his horse) have "promises to keep" as well as "miles to go before I sleep." But suddenly there appears a dark wood expressed with such a dream-like beauty that readers might be excused for believing that the entire poem is actually a dream (and who wants to be woken from such an extraordinary dream?).

The need to continue on toward home is expressed through the actions of the horse, who likely knows this path and has never stopped in this place before now, but this time:

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near
And later:
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.  
There is no mistake. The rider seems torn. He wishes to stay, to "watch his woods fill up with snow." There is no village nearby, there is very little sound, and it is extremely dark. As humans we are drawn to unusual visions of beauty and nature, but we also have responsibilities, and thus arises the conflict, in which is revealed the conflict between our desire to admire the world as it is and our need to fill up our days with activities, our work, our travel from one place to another--in short, our everyday voice to keep busy.
 
By the end of the poem, horse and rider have not yet continued on. Perhaps they will leave this place in just a moment for the promised bed and sleep, but just for now, for just this moment, they are transfixed, and the need to move is quieted by the human need for peace and beauty.
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What inner conflict in man is expressed in the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

‘Stopping by woods’ may appear to be a simple and small poem, yet one can unravel deeper and serious themes running through it.

The beauty of the woods is so fascinating that the traveler desires to linger there a little longer. The peaceful ambience devoid of any kind of distraction or blot offers him so a profound joy that he's reluctant to resume his journey.

 However, soon he recalls that he has promises to fulfill.

But i have promises to keep,

But I have promises to keep, 

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

The traveler is expected to move on rather than luxuriate himself in the enchantment the woods bestow upon him. Here lies the conflict. It’s between the desire to please oneself and the urge to abstain from it in order to fulfill one’s responsibility.

There’s something universal about this inherent theme of the poem. Quite often we experience such clash within ourselves. Our bigger goals require us be perseverant and disciplined. If we indulge ourselves in pleasures, we fear to lose our cherished dreams. Also, at times, in order to fulfill our duties, we are needed to relinquish our enjoyment and fun.

 It’s this inner conflict that lies at the crux of the poem, which appears to be a simple lyric describing the soothing beauty of some isolated woods in a wintry evening.

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