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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Research papers on a number of Frost’s poems explore deeper themes that what is originally reveals during a precursory reading.  One clear example is Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The writers at Paper Masters will explicate the poem, explore its themes and meaning and examine the rhyme scheme and cadence of the poem. Any aspect you need written about regarding Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening can be ordered at Paper Masters.

Upon first reading Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, the reader is introduced to, what appears to be a man, on his way home to a local farmer’s house.  He is obviously tired and stops to admire the snow falling in a wooded field.  The imagery provided by Frost details the quietness of the softly falling snow and the vague familiarity that the main character has with the area that he is visiting.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Although research papers could easily argue that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a simple description of a beautiful New England sunset, there are many clues imbedded in the language and structure of the text that indicate that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is much more than a description of a scenic snowfall.  The first point in your research paper should be to note the oddity about the poem, which is its almost rhythmic chant.  The rhyme scheme, which follows the pattern A,A,B,A (with the exception of the last stanza) coupled with the meter, iambic tetrameter, give the reader a sense of labored marching.  This technique is odd when considered by itself.  However, when it is put with other underlying subtleties, it becomes clear that Frost’s poem is not about the beauty of a snowfall, it is about the main character’s contemplation of death.

Imagery is perhaps the second most notable element that gives credence to the subtext of death within Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  When first reading the poem, the line, “The darkest evening of the year,” fits well into the description of snowy evening; the stark contrast of the black night with the white snow.  In spite of this, when one looks at the poem in terms of the central character’s death, the line takes on a whole new meaning.  For the traveling man, this night is the darkest of his life.

The poem is constructed in four, almost identical stanzas that contain the following rhyming patters:

  1. The first three stanzas have an a-a-b-a rhyme pattern.
  2. Frost decided to rhyme the third (b) line in each of the first three stanzas with the first (a) line of the next stanza. For example, in the first stanza, lines 1, 2 and 4 rhyme with the words know, though and snow, while line 3, the word here rhymes with line 1, queer, in the next stanza. This pattern continues for three stanzas.
  3. In the third stanza, the b rhyme, sweep, leads to the fourth stanza where the third line rhymes with the previous two and is repeated in the last line.
  4. This challenging rhyme scheme enhances the beauty and readability of the poem, bringing the reader into the scene.

However difficult it must have been, Frost makes it read easy and natural.

The allure of the woods as a setting seem to represent a separation from civilization, a temptation to stray from the path and linger a while. In his book American Poetry of the Twentieth Century, author Richard Gray sees the first stanza couched in ambivalence, citing the words think and though. The first three lines seem to represent a man musing to himself on a cold winter’s night while the fourth line changes the mood with its wonderful imagery (132). Frost points out that the owner of the woods lives in the village, thus setting up the contrast between civilized society and the dark seduction of the unknown. Whether the woods represent the simply the wonders of nature or something darker depends on the interpretation of the reader.

The reader might wonder why Frost devotes the better part of two stanzas to the man’s horse. The language of the poem evokes the feeling of being drawn toward the woods, toward the unknown, the uncivilized and perhaps even toward danger. The actions of the horse, giving his harness bells a shake, no doubt indicating he was anxious to hurry to the barn and his evening oats, represents the pull of civilization, a reminder that the man has responsibilities. It is an interesting paradox wherein the animal is the reminder of the social world, while the man apparently yearns for something beyond society. In that fashion, the horse seems to be the conscience or protector of the man. Because of the attractive pull of the woods, the man may need the reproach of the horse. Woods can be dangerous in their beauty, a fact that many have forgotten to their detriment. But, danger is also attractive. Another darker possibility exists. The man may have been suicidal. How easy it would be to simply curl up in the snow so “lovely, dark and deep,” and simply go to sleep.

The last stanza, particularly, the last two lines, change the mood of the poem from something seemingly quite literal to an ending that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. First, the rhyme pattern changes from the previous three stanzas. Again, Frost interweaves the third line of the previous stanza with the word sweep leading us into the rhyming word deep at the end of the first line. But, as the reader is gently lulled into the usual pattern, he discovers that things are different. Each line is an echo of the one before like the soft ringing of a bell. The insistent quality of the rhyme acts as a reminder to the narrator. The woods are incredibly lovely, the snowfall is mesmerizing and even though he would love to longer, he has responsibilities and “promises to keep.” As much as he loves the aesthetic qualities of nature, he feels his sense of duty and solitude, the isolation of man in his physical world (Stauffer 233).

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