Analyzing Robert Frost?s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
What is poetry? Poetry is a lyrical way of expressing emotion. It is language charged with meaning and framed to be heard for contemplation. Poetry is a pleasant sounding work; the emotions that drive the words fill poetry with deep meaning. The reader must analyze every word to get the full meaning of a poem. An excellent example of deeper meaning within a poem is Robert Frost?s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. This poem is layered with different meanings; it requires the reader to contemplate Frost?s emotions behind the words.
Poems, much like pictures, are framed. A picture frame gives a definite border and look to a picture. One way in which a poem can be framed is the look of the poem; how many stanzas are in the poem, how many lines in the stanza, and how many feet are in a line are all examples of framing. Echo and rhyme are two other options an author can choose from when framing his or her work.
Unlike fiction and other types of stories, poetry always needs to be heard or read aloud. Hearing poetry is one of the key ingredients in grasping what the poet is trying to convey. In Robert Frost?s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, many different poetic devices can be heard. For instance, the whole poem has a consistent meter. Meter regulates the free-flowing, irregular rhythms of ordinary speech (Guth, Rico 477). Every two syllables are called a foot; Frost breaks every line into four feet. These happen to be iambic feet because the last syllable is the stressed syllable. Rhyme is another key element to poetry. Rhyme is defined as an echo effect produced when a poet repeats the same sounds at the end of the final syllables of two or more lines (Guth, Rico 475). The rhyme scheme is very interesting in this poem. The rhyme scheme seems very basic, but there is a second aspect that is critical. The basic rhyme scheme for the first three stanzas is AABA. The interesting twist to this poem?s rhyme scheme is that the third line in each stanza rhymes with the first, second, and fourth lines of the next stanza throughout the poem; in the last stanza, all four lines rhyme.
The most important element of poetry is the fact that it is charged with meaning. Normally poems are shorter than other works. This makes each word of a poem extremely significant. Every word has a key role in the deeper meaning of the poem. In the first stanza, we see a man stopping in the forest to watch it fill up with snow. Here, the woods in the poem symbolize death. The woods and death are both looked at as very cold miserable things. Frost is trying to convey, through the picture of cold and dreary woods, that the man is contemplating suicide. At this point in the man?s life, getting lost and dying in the woods seems easier than facing all of his troubles.
In the next stanza, his horse is pulling at the reins trying to get him to leave the cold woods. The horse is representing the side of him that wants to return and confront his troubles. In the following stanza, only serene thoughts are portrayed. Again, the man is pondering whether or not to stay in the deep and lonely woods. ?The woods are lovely, dark and deep ( 474. 13 ).? With this line, he is telling himself he would die in peace if he stayed within the depth of the silent woods. ?But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep (474. 14-16).? These final lines remind the man that he has commitments to loved ones to support them; he can not abandon these people that he loves so much. These lines are repeated to warrant that continuing home is the fit thing for the man to do. This entire poem uses words that paint very vivid images of the peaceful woods and death. Without these exact words, this poem could lack several layers of meaning and emotion.
When using these three key elements of poetry, it is much easier to analyze and gain the full meaning of a poem. Understanding that the man in the poem is contemplating suicide opens the poem up to be much more than four trivial stanzas. It becomes a picture of how someone who might be contemplating suicide thinks and feels. Searching for the complete understanding of a poem is like a journey for the reader; the destination is reached when the author?s true meaning is successfully conveyed.