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“Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Frost Thesis

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Updated: Sep 18th, 2022

A poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost captivates with its bewitching simplicity. A winter landscape instantly appears in front of the reader’s eyes: the land, wrapped in a dense white blanket, the ice-bound lake, and the low sky, which is almost invisible behind the snowflakes.

The imagination draws many other images, the symbolic character of which leads to a variety of interpretations. This paper aims to analyze the poem by revealing its symbolic meaning and the narrator’s identity, as well as the use of literary and metrical devices that support the overall mood of the poem.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is not a simple landscape sketch, but a narrator’s monologue. The pronoun “I” is repeated many times throughout the poem, emphasizing the narrator’s identity (Frost 135, line 1). The landscape, in which the forest dominates, is a means of objectifying the emotions of the lyrical hero. He is mesmerized by the view of the winter forest, but at the same time, feels awkward because of his sudden desire to enjoy the landscape.

Even far from the human gaze, he condemns himself for that strange and inexplicable impulse. Perhaps, the narrator’s traditional Victorian manners and primness that condemn any waste of time make him feel uncomfortable. His rationality, expressed by the verbs “think”, “know”, “have promises to keep”, tries to suppress his subconscious desire to contemplate the forest covered with snow (Frost 135, line 14). The persistence of the subconscious is manifested in his external behavior, his shyness, and his wish to become invisible to other people. Meanwhile, this modesty testifies to the sensibility of the hero’s soul.

The poem is abundant with a variety of symbolic images that support the general mood of it. The passage through the forest is often perceived as a transition to another world. This gloomy symbolism is complemented by the folklore idea that a snowy, cold, and dark forest is associated with the kingdom of death.

The image of a forest is enhanced by a frozen lake, which is associated with the underworld. The image of the wind also contributes to the feeling of obsession with a winter landscape. The lyrical hero is attracted to nature and describes wind and snow using gentle epithets, such as “easy wind” and “downy flake” (Frost 135, line 12).

However, the man does not go deep into the gloomy forest, only stops at its edge. Despite the narrator’s attraction to darkness, the end of the poem signifies the triumph of life over death. The symbolic image of the horse helps the narrator come out of his lethargy. In the end, the mood of quiet sadness, the manifestation of a minute weakness by the lyrical hero is replaced by his restrained stoic intention to live.

The poem captures a static picture, typical of pastoral poetry. By an unexpected stop near the snowy forest, the poet wants to show the beauty of the moment and make a reader think about the meaning of life. An idea that the forest is charming with all its gloom and mystery is equivalent to the recognition of the beauty of a stopped moment (Frost 135, line 13).

However, the moment is not endless and does not entail the inevitable death of the lyrical hero. The woods attract the man with their eternal mystery and darkness, but he is saved by his rationality and the consciousness of duty, which he has yet to fulfill in the earthly life.

Robert Frost turns a small fragment of the created poetic world into the whole universe and elevates the fleeting impression to the act of cognition. Therefore, his poetic style can be characterized as synecdochic, emphasizing his ability to see the embodiment of the laws of the universe in the tangible details.

The poem is divided into four chain stanzas, consisting of iambic tetrameter. This external composition of the poem makes the structure solid and well-balanced. The first three quatrains have the same rhyme pattern, and the semantic importance of the thirteenth verse is emphasized by the fact that it opens a single-rhyme quatrain (Frost 135, line 13). This structure phonetically strengthens the clause of the thirteenth verse and helps to feel the poet’s mood change.

In the construction of stanzas, certain semantic parallelism can be found, namely, a movement from the real world to the mysterious and surreal space. At the same time, the second stanza, based on the repetition of a long vowel “e”, imitates the sound of the wind, thus emphasizing that the lyrical hero involuntarily crosses a mysterious border, which is outlined in the first stanza (Frost 135, line 14). Moreover, the narrator stands between the forest and the frozen lake in the evening, which is considered a transitional time of the day. The feeling of staying at the edge and tension between the opposites lasts to the end of the poem and forms its entire appearance.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a poetic experience of approaching the mysterious and formidable foundations of the universe. The analysis of Robert Frost’s poem mentally returns the reader to the picturesque impression created in it. Snow, gradually filling the vast, losing shape forest, the darkness of the world, and the gradual merging of the contours of objects create an example of visual art using verbal means. With the help of literary and metric devices, as well as various symbolic images, Robert Frost creates an aesthetic masterpiece of a symbolic nature.

Work Cited

Frost, Robert. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Hastings W.-Nw. J. Envtl. L. & Pol’y 5 (1998): 135.

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IvyPanda. ""Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Frost." September 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/stopping-by-the-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-by-frost/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. ""Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Frost." September 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/stopping-by-the-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-by-frost/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) '"Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Frost'. 18 September.

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