Brief Summary of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
The famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has been written by Robert Frost (1874-1963).
The poem starts with the speaker standing in the woods. Houses are beyond the vision of the speaker and the quietness marks the scene. It is snowing heavily. The owner of the house will not watch the poet. The poet is watching his woods, which is filled up with snow. In the second stanza, the poet introduces a foil. The horse here stands for rustic common sense. The horse wonders why the man stopped there by the jungle. There is not a farmhouse near between the woods and frozen lake. It is the darkest evening of the year. The horse shakes his harness bells. He seems to ask if there is anything wrong. There was no other sound but the soft snow falling on the trees. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. They seem to invite the poet. But the poet has miles to go before he sleeps.
Summary of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Stanza I (Line: 1-4)
The speaker, on his way back, stands by the woods. The scene and means employed to portray it, call our attention. There is a frozen lake across the road. Houses are beyond the vision of the speaker and the quietness indicates the scene. It is snowing heavily and therefore the speaker can hear the soft and almost smooth inaudible sound made by wind and the soft snow-flakes are falling on the trees.
The ‘dark woods’ symbolize ‘the dark’, impenetrable, unfathomable mystery of life, and snow, as usual, symbolizes the cold destructive force called ‘death’. It is as though the speaker was literally caught in woods on a snowy evening and on another level, he is caught in a moment of time, arresting all his powers to find an answer to the mystery of life. The only plausible answer, the ultimate reality, to him as to philosophers and thinkers of all time is death –an absolute power, of which man has a strange fascination and an inexplicable horror at the same time.
There is no definite answer as to why the speaker of the poem stopped, but he is definitely moved by the beauty of the scene. Frost does not make any explicit comments implying that the scene is beautiful or he is moved by it. Frost’s evasion of these elaborate, explicit, exquisite feelings illustrates two principles of any good works- reticence and understatements. The first he has stated himself in “Mowing”—anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak. Understatement is one of the basic sources, where English poetry derives its power from
Stanza II (Line: 5-8)
In the second stanza, the poet introduces a foil. In fiction and drama, a foil is a character that “plays against” a more important character. By making the more important character confront opposite to his point of view and by providing a contrasting set of motives, the foil makes him react in a manner which might never have been expressed otherwise. The foil serves a useful function by working against the more important character. The important character is thus revealed more fully – both to himself and to the reader. Here, in this poem, the foil is the horse.
The horse here also stands for rustic common sense without any feelings, emotions and provocations of nature. It is the horse that makes us thinking as to why the man stopped there in the midst of the jungle, having no essential amenities required for a stay in a dark and cold evening. The speaker in the poem imagines the horse to be asking what possibly could make him stop there. This stanza suggests a latent death-wish in the speaker and a desire for self-annihilation in order to taste death.
Stanza III (Line: 9-12)
The horse shakes his harness bells. He seems to ask if there is anything wrong. “What are we waiting for?” he seems to ask. The dark and the snowfall symbolize a vague, fleeting, momentary death-wish. There is also, perhaps in these lines, an implicit indictment of the people who live at the level of this beast, the horse: people whose sheer rationale makes them wear blinkers to the beauty of nature.
Stanza IV (Line: 13-16)
The final stanza begins with a comment on the scene. Making a very subjective comment, the speaker says that the woods are lovely, dark and, deep. The mood of the poet and his fancy seem to get entangled in the woods that are lovely, dark and deep, as the syllables in which he phrases the thought, keep lingering. But the poet’s final decision is to put off the poetic, philosophizing mood and to go on. The poet is a man of the world; he has to go on his defined path and has his obligations to tend before he can yield to spontaneous, natural, passionate calls of nature. He has to strive more before he dies. He repeats this idea implying a determination to achieve the fixed goal of life before death.