Robert Frost uses metaphor and symbolism extensively in ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, developing deeper and more complex meanings from a superficially simple poem. Frost’s own analysis contributes greatly to our appreciation of the importance of metaphor, claiming that “metaphor [is] the whole of thinking,” inviting the reader to interpret the beautiful scene in a more profound way. However, the multitude of possible interpretations sees it being read as either carefully crafted lyric, a “suicide poem, [or] as recording a single autobiographical incident” . Judith Oster argues, therefore, that the social conditions individual to each reader tangibly alter our understanding of metaphor. Despite the simplicity of language, Frost uses conventional metaphors to explore complex ideas about life, death and nature. The uncertainty, even in the concluding stanza, that encompasses the poem only adds to the depth of possible readings.
One aspect Frost explores through his use of extended conceptual metaphor is the representation of life as a journey. The traveller, tempted by death, ultimately concludes that he has “miles to go”, where the repetition of the final line develops a sense of monotony, expressing the growing sense of enervation. Interpreted in a purely literal way the traveller is confronted by a simple conundrum: whether to stop or go. However, once read in context, Frost exposes the confrontation between “obligation and temptation” that encompasses both the poem and our lives. The traveller’s isolation from humanity and his exclusion from the woods whose owner “is in the village” perhaps mirrors Frost’s own sense of isolation. The change in rhyme scheme contributes uncertainty that, befitting of such a poe...
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...fall of snow and the unremitting “sweep” of “easy wind” appear tragically indifferent to life, in turn stressing the value of Poirier’s assessment of the poem. Frost uses metaphor in a way that gives meaning to simple actions, perhaps exploring his own insecurities before nature by setting the poem amongst a tempest of “dark” sentiments. Like a metaphor for the workings of the human mind, the pull between the “promises” the traveller should keep and the lure of death remains palpably relevant to modern life. The multitudes of readings opened up through the ambiguity of metaphor allows for a setting of pronounced liminality; between life and death, “night and day, storm and heath, nature and culture, individual and group, freedom and responsibility,” Frost challenges his readers to delve deep into the subtlety of tone and come to a very personal conclusion.
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