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Frost uses symbolism, including characters and objects, in an effort to create the various themes for the reader. The adjective “little” describes the horse as something that isn’t dangerous; however, the little horse’s character has a significant purpose (C5 1). The harness bells, worn by the horse, are a reminder to the speaker of his duties (G 1). The mention of the unnamed owner of the woods by the speaker causes difficulties that cannot be easily detected. The speaker focuses less on the woods than on the thought that they didn’t belong to him. The unnamed owner of the woods is thought to be a society person that lives in the nearby village (C2, 1). The speaker provides the reader a picture of what occurs in the poem (B4,2). Because he mentions the owner of the woods, the reader can contemplate that he respects the property of others. It seems that it would be more upsetting to him to be observed by the owner of the woods than by the horse. Although it is obvious the speaker wants a private moment in the woods, the reader is left wondering what the speaker is really thinking (C3, 1-2).
Resistant objects are another form of symbolism used in “Stopping by Woods.” The woods represent life in an uncivilized world (B5 3). The speaker feels an attraction to the woods; for that reason, he immediately allows the setting to provide him a brief time away from his daily responsibilities (E2, np). Right away the speaker acknowledges that he does not own woods. The last stanza includes a few more descriptive words about the woods; although, the woods do not appear to be the whole purpose of the poem (F1 354).
Frost uses both visual and audio imagery to reveal various facts to the reader.
“He will not see me stopping here” reveals to the reader that the speaker believes no one will see him and so he feels all right about the things he is thinking. “To watch his woods fill up with snow” implies that the speaker has been watching for a while. The way that Frost writes the poem, it is as if the reader can hear the speaker’s thoughts (D1 16). The harness bells of the little horse provides another audio imagery.
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Other literary devices recognized in this particular poem include rhyme, rhythm and phonetic structure. Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Theodore Roethke’s
The Bat presents two examples of how meter and rhyme can decrease the speed in particular areas of the poem (I1 30). The pattern used to produce the rhyme scheme provides a promise of another stanza, until Frost breaks this promise so the poem can come to an end (F3 354). The title of this poem suggest it will be a calm, soothing poem; however, the poem becomes frantic and intense. This is easily noticed when the poem is read aloud. Frost utilizes tetrameter lines, single-syllables, and crowded rhymes to accomplish this (F5 354). Frost also uses rhythmic gravity against the inactive setting of the poem (B2 2).
In stanza three, tense vowels, diphthongs, and consonants are used to get the reader quickly to the desired stopping point (I3 31). Consonants lengthen words which slow down the reader. Groups of consonants slow down the reader even more (I4 30-31). In stanza four, the speaker mentions that he has “promises to keep.” The word “promises” is the only three syllable word in the poem which may represent the heavy burden and responsibility felt by the speaker (C 7 np)
Frost predicted that this particular poem would be the one that people would remember him for writing (B1,2). Critics have tried to interpret this poem. Frost said at one time that he could provide “forty pages of footnotes” (A1,984). He also said that the poem should not be analyzed to an excessive degree (E1,1); nevertheless, numerous critics attempt to determine the underlying theme or meaning. Death is one theme that remains unresolved. “The darkest evening of the year” implies a dark mood (D 3). In 1958, John Ciardi wrote his analysis of the poem in “The Saturday Review.” Readers criticized him for indicating that “the dark and the snowfall symbolize a death-wish, however momentary.” (J1 440) Frost apparently did not agree with the death-wish hypothesis (J2 441). Nat Henry states that if there is a death theme in the poem, it does not refer to the “big death” meaning end of life. Instead, it could refer to “little death.” Giving up the pleasures of life for the duties of everyday pertain to “little death.” (N1 37-38)