that the speaker is contemplating suicide—the woods, “lovely, dark, and deep,” represent theallure of death as a means of escape from the mundane duties of daily life. Still others, however,such as Philip L. Gerber, argue that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is mostimportantly a “lyric” poem, which should be appreciated in terms of its formal, metricalqualities, such as the complex, interlocking rhyme scheme, rather than its content or “meaning.”Gerber notes that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is “widely regarded, metrically, asFrost's most perfect poem.” Critics also point to the mood or tone of the poem, as created by itsformal properties, as one of a person caught up in a reverie; the hypnotic quality of the repeatedclosing lines, in particular, suggests a chant or spell. James Hepburn noted that the inability of critics to secure a particular meaning of the poem is due to the quality by which “It is a poem of undertones and overtones rather than of meaning.” Critical debate over the meaning andsignificance of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” rages on, but few question the statusof the poem as one of the greatest in American literature. Donald J. Greiner has observed of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” that “Its deceptive simplicity, its ambiguity, and itsinterlocking rhyme scheme have been so lauded that it is now one of the most explicatedAmerican poems.” The extent to which this poem has been discussed—perhaps overanalyzed— by critics was indicated by the parodic interpretation of Herbert R. Coursen, Jr., who, tongue-in-cheek, surmised that the speaker is in fact none other than Santa Claus, the “little horse” whorings its harness bells representing a reindeer, and the “darkest night of the year,” during whichthe poem takes place, a reference to the winter solstice, which is only a few days beforeChristmas. According to this interpretation, the “promises” that the speaker must keep refer toSanta Claus's responsibility to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.
Symbol AnalysisThe woods in this poem are something to write home about. Our speaker can't get enough of them, telling us that "the woods are lovely, dark and deep" (13), as though he were hypnotized.The woods must be all that and a bag of chips, because our speaker is compelled to stop and stareat them on the freezing, dark winter evening. There's a mysterious element to these woods aswell, and we get the sense that the speaker is not alone, even though he is very much by himself.Whenever we see woods in literature, we almost automatically see them in contrast tocivilization. If you've read
, think about the woods Hester Prynne frequents.We also think of woods as being mazelike and full of hidden obstacles, like the Fire Swamp in
The Princess Bride
(watch out for the Rodents Of Unusual Size and the quicksand). These aresome pretty intense woods, so feel free to interpret them how you will. We will offer a few ideas below.
Lines 1, 4, 7, 13: Some interpret the woods as an extendedmetaphor for death.
Line 4: Here we see woods as a clear and crisp image asour speaker describes them filling up with snow