The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

For the speaker of Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the time that he takes to stop and view the woods is unusual; his duties and responsibilities don't allow for him to linger. Even so, the speaker finds great pleasure in this unexpected pause in his journey. The binary oppositions present in the poem indicate that, regardless of his responsibilities, the speaker would like to remain in the woods and take in the scene set before him. For it is here in the woods that the speaker feels a sense of individualism; it offers an escape from the communal responsibilities with which he is laden. However, while the "natural" side of the oppositions within the poem seem to be privileged, the speaker finally chooses to lay them aside and carry out his duties.

The first binary opposition in the poem involves the juxtaposition of the woods and the village. The speaker recognizes that the owner of the woods lives in the village. But the speaker suggests that the owner "will not see me stopping here" because of the owner's responsibilities in the village (3). Apparently no one else is close by either. Clearly, the woods are a place of pleasurable solitude. As they fill with snow, the woods become a place of peace as well. The village, on the other hand, is not filled with snow, but with people and houses. Though it remains unseen in the poem, it is still a presence that contrasts with the woods as a scene of duty and obligation. Knowing what the village holds, the speaker wishes to remain in the woods.

The speaker, however, obviously is not used to straying from his responsibilities. The action of the speaker's horse proves this. As the spe...

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...scene in the woods. In any case, the speaker finds the woods to be a much more pleasurable experience than the demands of the village. Here in the woods he experiences a sense of peace and an individualistic self-fulfillment lacking in the village. However, although his desire to remain in such an environment is strong, his sense of duty and obligation overcomes him. Regardless of what he personally wants, the speaker decides to fulfill his responsibilities and travel those miles before he sleeps. Thus, in the end the privileging of the basic binary opposition within the poem between woods and village, self and society, seems to change. In the judgment of the speaker's action at least, duty calls.

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." 1923. A Pocketful of Poems. Ed. David Madden.Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1996. 39.
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