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Seth Martin, Roanoke, VA

2010-05-04

Imagery, Tone, and Theme in Robert Frosts Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening is one of Robert Frosts best known poems, which he himself considered his best bid for remembrance" (Frost, Letter, 347). The poem is narrated in the first person by an individual who, while traveling a great distance on some necessity in the dark of night, has noticed lovely woods and stopped for a short period of time to watch the woods fill up with snow (Frost, line 4). The poem is written in iambic tetrameter in the Rubaiyat stanza created by Edward Fitzgerald (Stopping) and with a chain rhyme scheme, which effortlessly delivers Frosts cool imagery. The structure and cool imagery in the poem generate a sense of peace, longing, and sadness as tone, and instills the poem with a timeless quality. Frosts theme is sociological in nature with a conflict perspective, contrasting the difference in life circumstances between the narrator who passes by these woods in the middle of the night on a necessary errand while the owner of the woods is retired to another of his properties. Frosts imagery in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is very cool, being devoid of all specific details, which requires and permits the reader to envision the scene perfectly in his own mind. The structure of the poem, which flows beautifully, makes the visualization effortless for the reader. Although there are no specific details, nearly every line includes meaningful imagery, as in the central stanzas of the poem: My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.

Seth Martin, Roanoke, VA He give his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sounds the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake (Frost, lines 5-12).

2010-05-04

From these lines the reader effortless absorbs such details as the narrator is riding a small male horse with bells on its harness, he is stopped between woods and a frozen lake, all is quiet except for the horses bells, the weather is snowy with a slight wind, and it is during the winter solstice. Frost uses this beautifully flowing structure and these cool images to affect his tone. Frosts tone in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is that of peace, longing, and sadness, which are accentuated by the poems timeless quality. The reader envisions and empathizes with the narrator being alone, in the dead of winter, in the dark of night, traveling relatively great distances by horseback, in precipitation, and with reduced visibility. The narrator wants to rest and watch [the] woods fill up with snow (Frost, line 4), but instead must continue his journey because as he says, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep (Frost, lines 13-14). By repeating the last line, and miles to go before I sleep (Frost, line 16), the narrator emphasizes his feelings of longing to stay and sadness about his current circumstances. Frosts tone intuitively makes the reader empathize with the narrator and connect with his theme. Frosts theme in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is sociological in nature when considered from a sociological conflict perspective. The poem subtly contrasts the circumstances of the narrator with the circumstances of the owner of the woods. Frost dedicates the entire first stanza to address the circumstances of the owner while also giving setting: Whose woods these are I think I know.

Seth Martin, Roanoke, VA His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow (Frost, lines 1-4).

2010-05-04

While the narrator is required to be out on the darkest evening of the year (Frost, line 8), he says that the owner of the woods is in his house in the village [...and...] will not see me stopping here (Frost, lines 2-3). When the narrator says that my little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near (Frost, lines 5-6), the reader imagines that the narrator does not frequently enjoy the luxury of rest as he does on this night by these woods. While the narrator would prefer to remain and watch his woods fill up with snow (Frost, line 4), in which the owner of the wood is apparently less interested than the narrator as he is at his house in the village (Frost, line 2), the pressures of the necessities of the narrators daily life pull him away from the wood: The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep (Frost, lines 13-16). The reader imagines that in contrast to the narrator, the owner of the woods is monied, owns multiple properties, and is not traveling great distances in foul weather in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, but is instead sleeping comfortably in his warm home in the village. Further consideration leads to the conclusion that in contrast to the narrator, the owner of the woods likely has few if any promises to keep, but instead has promises owed to him by others.

Seth Martin, Roanoke, VA

2010-05-04

In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost expertly and carefully crafts an nearly perfect work. While the work is short and simple, Frost effectively uses minimalist imagery to affect lasting tone to affect a subtle and meaningful theme. Like many works crafted by masters of their respective arts, the poem is most impressive not for what it includes but for what it does not.

Seth Martin, Roanoke, VA Works Cited

2010-05-04

Frost, Robert. Letter to Louis Untermeyer. The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Eds. Nancy Lewis Tuten and John Zubizarreta. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. 347. Print. Frost, Robert. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Literature: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Janet E. Gardner, Beverly Lawn, Jack Ridl, and Peter Schakel. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 554. Print. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Wikipedia. Wikimedia, n.d. Web. 4 May 2010.