A man stops by woods one night. It is snowing, and he is on his horse.

He is on his way somewhere²we don¶t know where²but wherever it is, the man has business there. The woods look inviting, and he¶d like to stay longer, but ultimately he keeps going. Robert Frost¶s poem, ³Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,´ narrates what might otherwise be an unremarkable few minutes in the life of an ordinary man. But the tension between the man and his surroundings make the poem into something larger. Ultimately ³Stopping by Woods´ is a poem about the pull between civilization and nature²between the man-made world, with its ³promises to keep,´ and the natural world, with its mysteries and silences. The man in the end is forced to choose, and he chooses civilization, but Frost makes it clear that this is a false and impossible choice. Humanity is nothing without nature. The tension between the appeal of nature, on one hand, and the obligations of civilization on the other is clear from the poem¶s first stanza; Frost sustains this tension throughout ³Stopping by Woods.´ The second word of the poem is ³woods,´ a nature word, but in the second line, we learn that the woods belong to somebody, and that ³his house is in the village´; ownership and ³village´ are both marks of civilization. In the last line, he uses the expression ³his woods.´ ³Woods´ are obviously nature²and so is the snow that fills them up. But to say they¶re his woods reminds us that even in the middle of nowhere, are marks of civilization. Elsewhere in the poem, in the second and fourth stanzas, he refers to them as the woods, which gives the title back to nature.

things he¶s not going to do

Ultimately the poem¶s speaker is forced to choose, and he chooses the world of men.

The man may have chosen to honor his ³promises,´ but Frost makes it clear that this is an impossible choice: there is no such thing as civilization without nature.

WORKS CITED Frost, Robert. ³Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.´ Literature: Craft and Voice (Volume Two: Poetry. Eds. Nicholas DelBanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010.

Monte, Steven. Untitled essay about ³Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.´ Poetry for Students 1 (1997):279-281.

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