Full version Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

This print version free essay Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.

Category: English

Autor: reviewessays 04 February 2011

Words: 2155 | Pages: 9

This essay is included my own understanding, plus some information that I gathered from a lot of researches and critics’ comments on this poem. I, myself interpret this poem through the first perspective I would explain about, and in two other perspectives my ideas hardly is included.

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Complete Text

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

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.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

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.

Summary:

On the surface, this poem is simple. The speaker is stopping by some woods on a snowy evening. He/she is taken in the lovely scene, is tempted to stay longer, but admits that there is a long distance to travel before he or she can rest for the night.

Interpretation:

First of all it should be mentioned that wherever there are symbolic words in a literary work, there would be numerous different interpretations. In other words, symbolic words make us to interpret a work in so different ways as far as the work permits and supports the interpretation.

In regard to this point, different interpretations on the poem ”Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” are inevitable. Because this is a symbolic poem, full of symbolic words such as woods, horse, dark, snow…etc. As far as I researched, it seems that all the interpretations are through three common perspectives, those I explain about one by one, from more dominant to less.

Perspective 1: Life/Beauty

In brief, in this perspective we see the speaker/Frost is between the attractions of the woods; which is here symbol of life; and responsibilities outside the woods (in the village).

Let’s analyze the poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

First stanza gives us an imagery in which the speaker/Frost is far from his house to watch the beautiful falling snow. He comes with his horse to the woods covered with snow, and is attracted by it’s beauty. He is losing himself, his previous life, his previous character, as he says “I think I know”. He cannot strongly say that there are his woods and the house is his.

The line “his house is in the village, though;” is where the division lies, between village which would be “society”, “civilization”, “duty”, “responsibility”, “sensibility”; and the woods which is beyond the borders of village and all the things it represents.

And the next line emphasize that he forgets his previous character which he had in village. The more important point that this line represents is that he doesn’t like to be seen by others; sensible people who live in the village or society, because they would disapprove and criticize his action; stopping alone there, in the dark, in the snow.

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.

In the first two line of second stanza, we see that Frost expresses society’s criticisms with the horse, in fact he ascribe it to the horse. Horse is representative of sensibility and humanistic features. So, the horse is puzzled by his action; stopping there, too far from house/society. The next lines give a better image of scene. It’s quiet and cold place. These lines remind that the speaker/Frost is fascinated at the side of a natural beauty of that place (far from society) while it is confusing for the horse to be there.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

This stanza shows the strangeness of the situation for society or sensible people. The other living being, the horse (who is symbol of people of society and represents sensibility and humanistic feature) takes action to find the reason for the odd and strange stopping. The noise of harness bells provides contrast to the silence of the scene, when the only sounds are the wind and the falling snow. The wind, falling snow and also the woods (in second stanza) are symbolizing natural beauty, freedom, peace, a world apart from human rights and obligations; which are features of the village or society.

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.

The final stanza brings all the feelings and sentiments of the poem together; an intense love of nature, and some tasks and obligations which take away the speaker’s rest. The line “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep” shows how situation in the woods is beautiful, attracting and pleasing for the speaker. It means he likes to be in a peaceful, beautiful place, free from all the problems, difficulties, responsibilities, obligations, expectations of the society (village), totally we can call it an easy and sweet life. However he is a human being and has different duties, responsibilities, and obligations towards the society which should be fulfilled by him until the last second of his life, even it would be hard and unpleasing.

So, as a conclusion: the man comes far from society and its problems and becomes attracted in the new beautiful situation, far and free from all the problems and responsibilities and wants to stay and have a sweet life but, the horse reminds him that he is a human being, so has obligations until the last second of life. So the man decides to come back to society and fulfill his duties and obligations.

Perspective 2: Death

We can also interpret this poem as the speaker/Frost is facing death. Here “snow, the frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year, bells, flake, dark, deep and sleep” refer to death.

Let’s analyze the poem:

In the first stanza the speaker/Frost is a little uncertain about his, but he knows that the woods belong to someone who is God. I think that place (maybe in speaker’s imagination) is like heaven. The house here refers to the church in the village (village refers to this world/life). The last line of this stanza shows that the speaker/Frost is old/in his winter of life and near to the death.

Totally in this stanza we see that the speaker/Frost is an old man who is in his winter of life (the last line refers to this matter). He is facing with death. He is (maybe in his imagination) in somewhere like heaven. He is a little uncertain about his surroundings, but knows that the place (the woods) is God’s whose church is in the village (I think that the village refers to this real world). Also we see that it’s not exactly his death time (this matter can be implied from the third line).

The second stanza shows that the speaker/Frost likes to stay in the place, in the woods. He is considering his death and it’s warm, restful, sweet and desirable. Death is inviting him and he is getting attracted by it. So he stops to stay, but this matter (stopping/staying) is queer for the horse that is young and symbolizes the speaker’s family, children and love ones.

In third stanza we see that as the horse (which is symbol of family) couldn’t understand the speaker’s stopping and looking at death, started to tell the man to go, because the horse is aware of that they are threatened to die by stopping there. The sound of horse’s harness bell is a sign for the man that the bells of the church in the village might be soon tolled for them. It means if they stay there; in that cold and lonely place (as in the last two lines are referred) they would die soon. This stanza also describes the woods (which is symbol of death) as a peaceful place for the speaker.

In the last stanza the speaker accepts to go. Although staying is lovely and desirable but he thinks that he should accept the death when comes itself. But now he has time to death and has to return to real life and fulfill his obligations, duties and responsibilities to his family, children and love ones.

So as a conclusion: the speaker faces with death, he is in a snowy night in the woods and decides to stop and sleep between the snow which will lead to death. But his duties and obligations towards his family and his horse (reminder of family) avoid him sleeping within snow and make him go on.

Perspective 3: Suicide

We can interpret this poem from suicide angle too, because the poem supports this idea too. Of course, I, myself don’t believe in this idea, but many people and critics interpret this poem as a matter of suicide. So, I mention just their proofs and claims briefly.

In this interpretation we see the speaker/Frost stops by the woods, thinks about whether to commit suicide, but ultimately decides not to do and move on.

In the first stanza we see the man has gone far from his house and other people, in the woods, quite alone. No one could see him committing suicide.

In the second stanza, the line”The darkest evening of the year” should be mentioned here, it refers to two things: first, lack of light which is a good condition for suicide; second, blackest mood, it means that the speaker/Frost is in a bad mood, quite depressed.

In the next stanzas the horse wants to stop the man from doing suicide, but he considers ending his life and death as something beautiful, peaceful and quite pleasant. Although he wants to give an end to his life to get rid of pressures, sorrows, and difficulties of this word, he decides to go on living because of his obligations.

Some proofs which people mention as support for the idea of suicide:

--Frost suffered from serious depression in his whole adult life.

--Frost’s daughter committed suicide in Frost’s lifetime.

--Frost’s wife was placed in a mental institution in Frost’s lifetime.

These are Robert frost’s words about “Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening”:

-- "As I remember it, 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' was written in just about that way, after I had been working all night long on 'New Hampshire.' But I must admit, it was written in a few minutes without any strain. Critics think I had that sort of all-night struggle before I could write the little poem I'm talking about. They must have heard me say, sometime or other, years back, that I wrote all night, in connection with 'Stopping by Woods.' But the thing I worked on all night had no struggle in it at all. It's in print, called 'New Hampshire.'. . .Then, having finished 'New Hampshire,' I went outdoors, got out sideways and didn't disturb anybody in the house, and about nine or ten o'clock went back in and wrote the piece about the snowy evening and the little horse as if I'd had an hallucination--little hallucination--the one critics write about occasionally. You can't trust these fellows who write what made a poet write what he wrote. We all of us read our pet theories into a poem."

-- I suppose people think I lie awake nights worrying about what people like [John] Ciardi of the Saturday Review write and publish about me [in 19S8]…Now Ciardi is a nice fellow—one of those bold, brassy fellows who go ahead and say all sorts of things. He makes my "Stopping By Woods" out a death poem. Well, it would be like this if it were. I'd say, "This is all very lovely, but I must be getting on to heaven." There'd be no absurdity in that. That's all right, but it's hardly a death poem.

On the whole we can see this poem (with any interpretation) in a psychological way:

According to Freud we have three parts in our unconscious mind:

1: Superego: represented our conscience and acts against the Id with a primitive and unconscious sense of morality.

2: Ego: the part of your mind with which you think and take action. Ego stands in between the Id and the Superego to balance our primitive needs and our moral beliefs.

3: Id: the part of your mind that is completely unconscious, but that has hidden desires and needs that you try to meet. It is organized around primitive instinctual urges of sexuality, aggression and the desire for instant enjoyment or release.

In this poem:

Superego: the horse

Ego: the Speaker/Frost

Id: the woods

And finally we can say this case is quite like “To be or not to be” in Hamlet.

Majid Olyaei/ Guilan University/ May 13 2005