The poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ written by Robert Frost, is considered to be one of the most prominent works of world literature; the poem is dedicated to the disclosure of nature as the beauty standard. It is necessary to underline the idea that the work is rich in figurative expressions and stylistic devices; the author strives to represent the basic theme through personification and imagery. The work has got the critical attention of many scholars through its individuality and style of representation. The theme of civilization and nature interdependence, taking an important position in American literature perception, is deeply analyzed by Robert Frost through the focus on socialization rules to be followed by everyone and the mystery of natural beauty.
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The poem was written in 1922 becoming the part of New Hampshire volume; the work became one of the greatest author’s masterpieces through the arguable theme and successful presentation manner. It is necessary to underline the fact that the critics concentrate on the debate between nature allure and the social responsibilities of modern society centralized in the poem. Frost tries to focus on the border between the wilderness and civilization; this theme is considered to be popular in the sphere of modern literature throughout the world. The special stress of the theme is demonstrated through the narrator’s obligations and responsibilities to be followed, which make him reject the beauty of nature.
‘The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep’. (Frost, 21)
The author depicts the choice of the narrator between the natural allure and remaining in society. It is necessary to stress that this theme has been perceived by many critics as the author’s attempt to express death meditation through the ‘woods’ and ‘darkness’.
‘To stop without a farmhouse near / Between the woods and frozen lake / The darkest evening of the year.’ (Frost, 20)
It should be noted that the poem appeared to be in the center of critics’ debate; some scholars consider that Frost sticks to civilization preference resisting the beauty and wilderness of the nature at the end of the poem; the others support the idea that ‘promises’ are an indication of author’s hesitation as to social life role in human development. (Delbanco, and Cheuse, 141)
The author uses a number of stylistic devices and expressive means; the central means appeared to be descriptive elements underlining the beauty of nature. The author uses the personification method making nature alive and be on the same level as a modern society.
He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake. (Frost, 20)
Besides, the poem’s style of writing is presented through iambic tetrameter; it means that every line consists of four metrical feet, where each foot has two syllables, an unstressed and stressed one.
According to L. Geber, the poem is considered to be the reflection of true lyrics expressed through interlocking and complex rhyme schemes. The critic considers the poem to be the perfect one in terms of metrical presentation. J. Hepburn stressed the tone domination over the poem’s meaning, while D. Greiner underlined that the poem’s deceptive simplicity and interlocking rhyme made the work stand out from many other American poems. According to Reuben Brower, 1963, the author of ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ managed to draw the readers into sleep and silence; Frost presented the work in a tentative tone forming the mood of the whole poem from its very beginning. Brower underlines that ‘o’ sound repetition forms the rhyme of the poem, making the readers be the travelers of the story. It should be noted that Frost starts the poem with the alone impression, pushing the readers to the strange process of observation, focusing on filling up woods rather than falling snow. Bower stressed that Frost wanted to demonstrate everyday man and usual life mixed with solstice winter strangeness. The critic noted that Frost made the transition to the sleep world through consonantal sounds diminution, which can be observed in ‘shake, ask, mistake’, or –eep morpheme provides diminishing in sleep, weep, and creep. Frost disclosed the thoughts by figurative language; ‘down’ and ‘easy’ alluringness tender is recalled through ‘lonely’ concept; the words ‘deep, dark’ is considered to be the indication of mystery and time strangeness. Besides, the repetition demonstrated at the end of the poem,
‘And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep’. (Frost, 21)
is considered to be the indication of prose sensibility, which involves the readers making the end of the poem thought-provoking. (On Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. 2003)
According to Robert Faggen, 2001, Frost strives to underline strong opposition between natural phenomena purposeless and humanity. ‘The setting is becoming blank, undifferentiated whiteness, a desert place on ‘the darkest evening of the year’, literally an overstatement but metaphorically not so to the speaker.’ (Faggen, 269) Faggen considers that the author discloses the choice in ‘woods and froze lake’; by this, he offers death in case of stopping.
…if there is some mistake… (Frost, 20)
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This line is considered to be the step to death in darkness; the symbolic representation of civilization breakage. (Faggen, 270)
Jeffrey Meyers, 1996, stresses the significance of the poem which is demonstrated through work lines transformations from other works of American authors; for example the line, ‘the wood is lovely, dark and deep is considered to be the reflection of ‘the Phantom Wooer’ by Thomas Beddoes, ‘Our bed is lovely, dark and sweet’. (Meyers, 113) It shows that Frost strives to underline the most significant elements of imagery and metaphoric expressions disclosed by other writers. Derek Walcott stresses the idea that the poem cannot be totally trusted through its manner of presentation; his negative critics were illustrated through numerous of Frost’s contradictions and hesitancy.
‘Whose woods these I think I know.’ (Frost, 20)
This line makes confusion for the whole storyline; according to the critic, Frost selected an insufficient start to the poem provoking contradicting opinion as to the author’s intention described. ‘No, the subject is not the owner of the woods, the legal name of their proprietor; it is the fear of naming the woods, of the anthropomorphic heresy or the hubris of possession by owners and poets’. (On Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. 2003) Walcott stresses that Frost identifies the content of the poem through a number of rhetorical phrases which are indirectly expressed. What is the narrator scared of? Why he can’t live in the woods? The poem is the author’s intention to depict the horror and darkness of woods in the contrast to the safe and light world where human beings live. (On Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. 2003)
Guy Rotella, 1991, argues that Frost concentrates on the development of such concepts, as complementarity, indeterminacy, and correspondence, which are characteristics of all his works. The poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ appeared to be the reflection of contrast between storm and health, freedom and responsibility. Frost successfully depicts the contradiction between nature and culture opposing people to the natural environment; it is necessary to underline the fact that the theme of ‘sound sense’ is hidden behind the author’s doubtful guessing as to nature and civilization link uncertainty. ‘One of Frost’s characteristic devices is to set up and undermine a case of the pathetic fallacy in such a way that both construction and collapse stay actively in play. (Delbanco, and Cheuse, 121)
The narrator of the poem interferes with observed reality on the way of indeterminacy exercising through feeling and thoughts imposing. The critic stresses the significance of ‘darkest’ symbolism preserved in the work; Frost concentrated darkness and light through the snow; this provides intensification to the natural dominance. Besides, Rotella underlines the fact that the poem’s qualities influence the balance of its act; for example, the responsibilities commitment was stressed through repetition stylistic device. (Delbanco, and Cheuse, 123)
It is necessary to underline the fact that Frost could have written the poem admitting to something inside himself looking for death or absorption prospects; the theme of natural beauty and the world of wilderness is the mask for the author’s personal desire for lostness and peace. Frost contradicted his personality to momentary nature fantasy. Richard Poirier notes, ‘The recognition of the power of nature, especially of snow, to obliterate the limits and boundaries of things and of his own being is, in large part, a function here of some furtive impulse toward extinction, an impulse no more predominate in Frost than it is in nature’ (Poirier, 181)
According to John Timmerman, 2002, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is the reflection of the style used by the author in almost all of his works; ‘… the poem is about the event that occurred in the wood one night. The poem is not a tool to get a chore done, nor a means for proving or disproving anything. A poem is about itself’. (Timmerman, 170) This statement characterizes the author’s straightforwardness reflected through the poem; Frost did not try to hide some mysterious intention, he just wrote about things he wanted to write. If the reader feels the author’s desire to demonstrate the world of nature, it is really so. (Timmerman, 172)
The analysis of the poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ written by Robert Frost, was depicted through the scholars’ criticism; the paper underlined the idea that the poem caused numerous contradictions in the way of its perception. Nevertheless, this work is considered to be the real masterpiece of American literature; the complexity of its understanding makes its convent to be involving and thought-provoking.
Frost covers the most important issues of literature analysis, such as interactions between nature and humanity; the global conflict tackled over centuries is focused on the fight between the natural environment and society with its globalization and technological progress. It is necessary to stress the idea that Frost successfully discloses the man’s choice faced in everyday life, which is connected with the necessity to follow civilization responsibilities or just live in harmony with the nature and inner world.
Delbanco, N. and Cheuse, A. Literature: Craft and Voice (Volume 1, Fiction). McGraw-Hill, 2009.
Faggen, R. The Cambridge companion to Robert Frost. Cambridge University Press, pp. 281, 2001.
Frost, R. and Jeffers, S. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. Diane Pub Co, 2004.
Meyers, J. Robert Frost: Biography. NY: 1996.
On Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. 2003. Web.
Poirier, R. Robert Frost: the work of knowing : with a new afterword. Stanford University Press, 1990.
Timmerman, J. Robert Frost: the ethics of ambiguity. Bucknell University Press, 2002.