Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: Theme, Tone, and Central Idea

Central Idea: Each of Robert Frost’s poems forwards a central philosophy. In Stopping by the Woods on a Snow Evening the main idea is that of the triumph of worldly duties over the pleasure principle. The narrator of the poem is a seemingly hard-working man who wishes to stop on his journey to appreciate the bounty of Nature but instead, he responds to the calling of his responsibilities and moves on to finish his work. The journey that the narrator is on, is a metaphor for life and the snow-filled woods here represent pleasures and indulgences. In life, one can either respond to the call of pleasures and lead a hedonistic life or respond to one’s commitments. The poet encourages us to do the latter since there will always be time to rejuvenate and enjoy once one is through with the duties of life. However, then, the time to work and achieve something is never going to return.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Theme

Themes of the Poem:  Upon performing a thematic analysis of the poem, one finds that the main theme is ‘conflict’. The conflict between one’s desire to enjoy life and the need to work hard to get somewhere in life. Our life is shaped by the calling that we give in to. Such situations in life in which we decide in favor of duties and responsibilities might make us lose out on some moments of joy and pleasure but the poet assures us that it is for the greater good because as driven human beings we always have miles to go before we sleep. Once the miles have been traversed, nothing can stop us from enjoying life guilt-free. The sound of the bells of the horse is like the little voice in the speaker’s head reminding him that it is not time to seek beauty and rest just as yet.

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Emerging from this central theme, there are some sub-themes. There is a conspicuous conflict in the poem between Nature and Materiality. Mother Nature has a lot of beauty to offer to the ones who would choose to stop and take notice of it. However, in today’s time, the material aspects of life often diminish the power of the beauty of Nature. In our daily grind, we have no other option but to be so engrossed in our work and responsibilities that we do not have time to appreciate the quintessence of Nature. This beauty of Nature is another sub-theme. The natural beauty of snow falling over woods is enough to enter a mortal.

Our life is comprised of the two conflicts mentioned above. This brings out the theme of life choices and the agency to choose.

There is also the theme of solitude in the poem. The narrator is all by himself in the woods, save his horse. However, his isolation does not bother the speaker and he seems to quite enjoy it. This is what makes his isolation, solitude instead of loneliness. We say a person is lonely when he does not fancy being on his own, which is not the case with the speaker.

There is also the theme of old age or death in the poem. The last line, “Miles to go before I sleep”, speaks of that time in life when all activities will either come to a halt or meet an end. Hence, one must accomplish all one can before reaching that point.

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Tone

The tone of the Poem: Almost all of Robert Frost’s poems such as The Road not Taken and Apple Picking has a serious tone. Gaiety is not a trait of Frost’s writing style since he mainly deals with life lessons and philosophies. Hence, a mature or somber tone is more suited for the delineation of such messages through poetry. We see that the poem stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is no exception to this rule. The tone of this poem is highly reflective to the point that it is rather depressing. After reading the poem one knows that it is a poem born out of a pensive state of mind. What is interesting about the poem is that it employs a serious, reflective tone to speak about Nature. Nature poetry is usually associated with sensuousness and exhilaration. However, in this poem, nature has been used as a vehicle to deliver an important life lesson due to which Frost has not sensualized it.

After critically analyzing Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, it is safe to declare that this poem is written in the typical tradition of Frostian poems. The language is simple and ornamentation and poetic devices are scarce. However, beneath the layer of simplicity lies an important message. The central message which the poem conveys is that between duties and pleasure, duties must always come first. Since the main purpose of Frost is to deliver a life lesson through the poem, he has employed a serious and mature tone. The themes of the conflicts between enjoyment and responsibility as well as Nature VS. Materiality stand out in the poem apart from the sub-themes of the beauty of Nature, pleasures of solitude, and death.

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Often readers make the mistake the judging a poet by the complexity he awards his poetry with. However, that is a wrong parameter of judgment. It is a very difficult task to say something big and impactful using just a few simple lines. This is why Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening is a marvelous piece of poetry. Notwithstanding its simplicity, it is highly influential. It is one of those timeless poems that will always be relevant irrespective of which era we belong to.