Literature Study GuidesThe Poems Of Robert FrostStopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening Summary

The Poems of Robert Frost | Study Guide

Robert Frost

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The Poems of Robert Frost | Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening | Summary

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Summary

A solitary traveler stops in woods that are familiar to him. He knows he will not be observed because the owner of the property lives in the village. Although the setting is forbiddingly cold and dark, the speaker pauses to watch the snow fall. When his horse shakes its harness bells, the speaker imagines that the horse is questioning the stop. The only other sound is "the sweep / of easy wind and downy flake." He concludes, wistfully, that he can't remain in the dark woods but must continue, for he has "miles to go before [he] sleeps."

Analysis

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," published in New Hampshire (1923), is the poem that Frost believed would be "my best bid for remembrance." It is possible he was right. The poem is an interior monologue, and the speaker, like so many of Frost's speakers, is of two minds. He is both a dreamer drawn to the woods and a man of practical concerns.

The poem travels between the two positions with a snowfall that obscures the boundaries between the purposefulness of commerce and the city, and the luxury of dreaming and the country. These boundaries arise in the opening lines and solidify in the poem's close.

The rhyme scheme is AABA BBCB CCDC DDDD. The end rhyme of the third line in each stanza is repeated in the first, second and fourth line of the next, propelling the reader forward—until the last stanza is reached. The unexpected repetition in the last two lines seems to bridge the gap between dreaming and responsibility. The first repetition is almost a reminder to the dawdling speaker and the second, a statement of resolve. Readers know in this repetition that the speaker will shake off his dreaminess and move on.

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