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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So you’re going to teach Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—troubling subject matter, ambiguous language—teaching this poem to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” will give them unique insight into one of the most influential poems in American literature, the poet who penned it, and the powerful techniques he used. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1923
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 6th and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 100 
  • Author: Robert Frost 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Lyric Poetry 
  • Literary Period: Modernism 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Nature, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: New England 
  • Structure: Lyric Poetry, Iambic Tetrameter, Dramatic Monologue 
  • Tone: Pensive, Dreamlike, Wintry

Texts That Go Well With "Stopping by Woods"

“Because I could not stop for Death” (1890), by Emily Dickinson, is another touchstone of American poetry. Like Frost, Dickinson writes in a supple common meter, crafting quatrains whose simplicity of diction belies a deep complexity and ambiguity. Unlike Frost, Dickinson handles the topic of death directly, although she dresses “Death” in the guise of a gentleman traveler, forcing readers to confront it afresh. 

“The Darkling Thrush” (1900), by Thomas Hardy, evokes through gorgeous language a bleak winter landscape. Like Frost, Hardy employs the winter scene as a figure for death. However, unlike the narrowly personal frame of Frost’s poem, Hardy brings a sweeping historical sensibility to the poem. The winter landscape is not a figure for interior experience, but rather for the end of a human epoch, “the century’s corpse outleant.” 

The Divine Comedy (1320), by Dante Alighieri, demonstrates a masterful and expansive use of chain rhyme. For the composition of his epic poem, Dante invented the terza rima form, comprised of tercets whose rhymes weave and chain together throughout each canto: ABA BCB CDC, etc. Dante also pioneered the poetic use of vernacular diction at a time when Italian poetry was largely composed in Latin by and for the educated elite. On both counts, Frost follows in Dante’s footsteps. 

“Rain” (1916), by Edward Thomas, is an intimate lyric whose tone, scene, and subject are reminiscent of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods.” Thomas and Frost were close friends during Frost’s years in England, before Thomas went abroad to fight in the trenches of WWI, where he penned the haunting “Rain.” The frequently indecisive Thomas inspired Frost to write “The Road Not Taken.” Frost inspired Thomas to pursue his poetry with greater vigor. The efforts paid off: Thomas went on to become one of the most beloved English poets of his time. 

“The Road Not Taken” is, next to “Stopping by Woods,” Robert Frost’s most famous poem. Both poems employ Frost’s simple diction and musical tetrameter, as well as richly depicted landscapes that figure into the speaker’s inner conflict. “The Road Not Taken” is less mysterious, spare, and haunting than “Stopping by Woods,” although its subtleties are frequently misread.

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History of the Text