Saturday, 2 April 2011

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, R. Frost

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A man in the woods in winter. That is all you see on the surface of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Underneath the surface, however lies a much more intriguing meaning behind every word he uses. The proof of this lies in the analysis of each individual stanza of this sophisticated piece of poetry. The first stanza is probably the most important, however, due to its hidden meanings.

In the first stanza, the reader pictures a man in the woods while it is snowing, not too sure of where he is. It is almost immediately apparent to the reader that the man is on some kind of journey, because he does not seem to have been here before. The journey most likely represents an individual’s journey of life, which can often confuse one as to where they are. The verse tells that the man is stopping in another man’s woods, but the man will surely not know, or care of the trespasser. The snow that is continuously falling is, of course, white, which is the color of purity, or good. The snow, being good, shows that, even though the man, most surely has traveled a long way, that he is surrounded by goodness all around him, which makes his journey a little easier. The second stanza describes more thoroughly the setting.

In the second stanza, the reader is shown that the man is on a horse, with no structure in sight with a frozen lake on the darkest evening of the year. The horse, most definitely represents a person that helps you through life, and that you can look to for support. The poem said it was “the darkest evening of the year,” which means that the time of year is in the dead of winter. Winter is often described as the harshest and most unforgiving time of the year, which could mean that the subject of this poem is in a tough position in his life or journey, but even in the harshest time, he still finds time to find beauty in the purity of the snow around him. Everything in this poem so far has pointed toward the fact that it is extremely cold out, and the man seems to be alone, save for his horse. The third verse does a little more to explain the setting, with, as always, much more hidden meanings to it.

In the third verse, the horse seems to ask the man if he really wants to stop somewhere where there is nothing around, but the man seems to be preoccupied with the sounds of the woods that surround him. Frost indicates that the woods are very quiet, because the man can hear the soft wind whispering through the snow. The horse’s shake of the harness bells can be interpreted as the man’s common sense telling him that this is not the time or the place to be stopping in the snowy woods, but he seems too preoccupied with his listening of the wind to notice. This situation can be applied to life in many ways, but the most obvious would probably be that in a rough patch of our lives, which seems to be established in the last stanza, that we all need just a small moment to stop and take in all that is happening to us, and realize the good and pure things that surround you, symbolized by the snow. To summarize the last sentence, it would be safe to say we all need to count our blessings from time to time.

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In the last stanza, Frost gives us a feeling that the rider takes one last look at the woods around him, and then seems to reluctantly realize that he must keep going, for he does have a long journey ahead. In the description of the woods as “lovely, dark and deep,” the reader gets a small dose of an oxymoron with “lovely” and “dark” woods. In using these two seemingly opposite adjectives, Frost can show that even though the man is surrounded by tranquility in the white of the snow, the man knows that the woods can be as unforgiving as anything in existence. With the adjective “deep,” Frost gives the impression that the woods have nearly no end, and when something is deep, you can usually not see the end, or even past a tiny portion of the entire volume of it. This, in its own way, supports the fact that the man’s journey represents the journey of life, because no one can predict the future of one’s life for very far into the future at all.

The Man says that he has promises to keep, which means that he must leave, and keep pressing forward because the must do something or get somewhere by a certain time. Frost does not tell us where the man is going, so we may assume that the man’s destination is not as important as his journey, which can be related to nearly any time or one’s life. The man says that he has miles to go before he sleeps, which means that the man has a long way to go before he can rest. By telling us that it is evening, dark, and cold, Frost has let us infer that the man is tired enough, already, but yet at the end, he shows us that the man will press on, and he will always press on. This little sentence that concludes the poem has a lot to say about people in general, and the simple fact that if a person has a little help, symbolized by the horse, that person could make it through the coldest winter, or most dreaded time of one’s life.

This poem has much to say about human nature and the hardships of life, and how the two interact with each other. Being a hard time in the subject’s life, he still find peace and beauty in everything that surround him when he is to be left to his thoughts. The man could be any person in life at all, past or present, king or peasant, that has had some kind of hard time in their life and has needed to find some way to overcome it. The symbolism in this poetic marvel may not be noticed at first, but can be overwhelming just after scratching the surface with one’s intellectual fingernail. This poem can be interpreted in many ways, but no one will ever know for sure what Frost truly meant underneath his words in, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

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