Friday, November 3, 2017

Robert Frost

Robert Frost
American poet
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in America. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. Wikipedia
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
These woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.


Emily Brontë -Novelist


Emily Jane Brontë was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a lassic of English literature. Wikipedia
DiedDecember 19, 1848, Haworth, United Kingdom
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.
Love is like the wild rose-briar; Friendship like the holly-tree. The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms, but which will bloom most constantly?


Wuthering Heights

Heath Cliff
Throughout Wuthering Heights two distinct yet related obsessions drive Heathcliff's character: his desire for Catherine's love and his need for revenge. Catherine, the object of his obsession, becomes the essence of his life, yet, in a sense, he ends up murdering his love. Ironically, after her death, Heathcliff's obsession only intensifies.
Heathcliff's love for Catherine enables him to endure Hindley's maltreatment after Mr. Earnshaw's death. But, after overhearing Catherine admit that she could not marry him, Heathcliff leaves. Nothing is known of his life away from her, but he returns with money. Heathcliff makes an attempt to join the society to which Catherine is drawn. Upon his return, she favors him to Edgar, but still he cannot have her. He is constantly present, lurking around Thrushcross Grange, visiting after hours, and longing to be buried in a connected grave with her so their bodies would disintegrate into one. Ironically, his obsession with revenge seemingly outweighs his obsession with his love, and that is why he does not fully forgive Catherine for marrying Edgar.
After Catherine's death, he must continue his revenge — a revenge that starts as Heathcliff assumes control of Hindley's house and his son — and continues with Heathcliff taking everything that is Edgar's. Although Heathcliff constantly professes his love for Catherine, he has no problem attempting to ruin the life of her daughter. He views an ambiguous world as black and white: a world of haves and have-nots. And for too long, he has been the outsider. That is why he is determined to take everything away from those at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, who did not accept him. For Heathcliff, revenge is a more powerful emotion than love.



Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
On a dark winter evening, the narrator stops his sleigh to watch the snow falling in the woods. At first, he worries that the owner of the property will be upset by his presence, but then he remembers that the owner lives in town, and he is free to enjoy the beauty of the falling snow. The sleigh horse is confused by his master’s behavior stopping far away from any farmhouse and shakes his harness bells in impatience. After a few more moments, the narrator reluctantly continues on his way.
Analysis
In terms of text, this poem is remarkably simple: in sixteen lines, there is not a single three-syllable word and only sixteen two-syllable words. In terms of rhythmic scheme and form, however, the poem is surprisingly complex. The poem is made up of four stanzas, each with four stressed syllables in iambic meter. Within an individual stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme (for example, “know,” “though,” and “snow” of the first stanza), while the third line rhymes with the first, second, and fourth lines of the following stanza (for example, “here” of the first stanza rhymes with “queer,” “near,” and “year” of the second stanza).
One of Frost’s most famous works, this poem is often touted as an example of his life work. As such, the poem is often analyzed to the minutest detail, far beyond what Frost himself intended for the short and simple piece. In reference to analyses of the work, Frost once said that he was annoyed by those “pressing it for more than it should be pressed for. It means enough without its being pressed…I don’t say that somebody shouldn’t press it, but I don’t want to be there.”
The poem was inspired by a particularly difficult winter in New Hampshire when Frost was returning home after an unsuccessful trip at the market. Realizing that he did not have enough to buy Christmas presents for his children, Frost was overwhelmed with depression and stopped his horse at a bend in the road in order to cry. After a few minutes, the horse shook the bells on its harness, and Frost was cheered enough to continue home.
The narrator in the poem does not seem to suffer from the same financial and emotional burdens as Frost did, but there is still an overwhelming sense of the narrator’s unavoidable responsibilities. He would prefer to watch the snow falling in the woods, even with his horse’s impatience, but he has “promises to keep,” obligations that he cannot ignore even if he wants to. It is unclear what these specific obligations are, but Frost does suggest that the narrator is particularly attracted to the woods because there is “not a farmhouse near.” He is able to enjoy complete isolation.
Frost’s decision to repeat the final line could be read in several ways. On the one hand, it reiterates the idea that the narrator has responsibilities that he is reluctant to fulfill. The repetition serves as a reminder, even a mantra, to the narrator, as if he would ultimately decide to stay in the woods unless he forces himself to remember his responsibilities. On the other hand, the repeated line could be a signal that the narrator is slowly falling asleep. Within this interpretation, the poem could end with the narrator’s death, perhaps as a result of hypothermia from staying in the frozen woods for too long.
The narrator’s “promises to keep” can also be seen as a reference to traditional American duties for a farmer in New England. In a time and a place where hard work is valued above all things, the act of watching snow fall in the woods may be viewed as a particularly trivial indulgence. Even the narrator is aware that his behavior is not appropriate: he projects his insecurities onto his horse by admitting that even a work animal would “think it queer.”


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Major Themes of Wuthering Heights

   Of the major themes in Wuthering Heights, the nature of love — both romantic and brotherly but, oddly enough, not erotic — applies to the principal characters as well as the minor ones. Every relationship in the text is strained at one point or another. Brontë's exploration of love is best discussed in the context of good versus evil (which is another way of saying love versus hate). Although the polarities between good and evil are easily understood, the differences are not that easily applied to the characters and their actions.
The most important relationship is the one between Heathcliff and Catherine. The nature of their love seems to go beyond the kind of love most people know. In fact, it is as if their love is beyond this world, belonging on a spiritual plane that supersedes anything available to everyone else on Earth. Their love seems to be born out of their rebellion and not merely a sexual desire. They both, however, do not fully understand the nature of their love, for they betray one another: Each of them marry a person whom they know they do not love as much as they love each other.
Contrasting the capacity for love is the ability to hate. And Heathcliff hates with a vengeance. He initially focuses his hate toward Hindley, then to Edgar, and then to a certain extent, to Catherine. Because of his hate, Heathcliff resorts to what is another major theme in Wuthering Heights — revenge. Hate and revenge intertwine with selfishness to reveal the conflicting emotions that drive people to do things that are not particularly nice or rationale. Some choices are regretted while others are relished.

These emotions make the majority of the characters in Wuthering Heights well rounded and more than just traditional stereotypes. Instead of symbolizing a particular emotion, characters symbolize real people with real, oftentimes not-so-nice emotions. Every character has at least one redeeming trait or action with which the reader can empathize. This empathy is a result of the complex nature of the characters and results in a depiction of life in the Victorian Era, a time when people behaved very similarly to the way they do today.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening BY ROBERT FROST



Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a poem written in 1922 by Robert Frost, and published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume. Imagerypersonification, and repetition are prominent in the work.
Frost wrote the poem in June 1922 at his house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. He had been up the entire night writing the long poem "New Hampshire" and had finally finished when he realized morning had come. He went out to view the sunrise and suddenly got the idea for "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening".He wrote the new poem "about the snowy evening and the little horse as if I'd had a hallucination" in just "a few minutes without strain." The text of the poem describes the thoughts of a lone rider (the speaker), pausing at night in his travel to watch snow falling in the woods. It ends with him reminding himself that, despite the loveliness of the view, "I have promises to keep, / and miles to go before I sleep."
Whatever “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” means, it is evident that the poem makes meaning; it has suffered many designs upon it, and even Frost thought that critics had pressed it too much for meaning. Nevertheless, the poem contains tensions and oppositions that are characteristic of Frost’s symbolic terrain in general and of his poetics as well.
Woods are a pervasive image in Frost’s poetry, evident in his earliest poems as well as in his last. Dark and unowned, woods are a metaphor of life’s wildness, and Frost contrasts them, generally, with places owned by human beings and made artful by their craft. Domesticated spaces such as pastures, clearings, even homes, show the presence of human beings; in these places they make themselves at home, spiritually and physically. In “The Constant Symbol,” Frost observes that “strongly spent is synonymous with kept.” The human spirit must risk and spend itself, paradoxically, in order to fulfill its nature.
Poets risk themselves and their skill as they create a poem out of the wildness of language. Consequently, readers of Frost’s verse, like the speaker stopping to watch the woods fill with snow, find themselves in a typically Frostian place: The poem is a partly wild, partly domesticated place, demanding risk and commitment, involvement and acceptance. Poems, like woods, are lovely, dark, and deep, but only if one will risk entering them more deeply and will let them work upon the imagination.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” then, directs one’s attention to that moment when one stops, or at least pauses, between two equally delicious possibilities, and this insistence upon human choice is characteristic of Frost. The “woods” that are “lovely, dark and deep” echo and suggest other sorts of “woods”— the limits, conventions, and thoughts by which poets and readers alike live and write. Fenced around with social convention and imaginative need, facing wild woods and dark choices, one must balance and choose.
Frost commented that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a “commitment to convention.” It is also a commitment to risk and to extravagance, especially imaginative extravagance, in order to possess something aesthetically—the woods, for example—that one cannot possess or “own” in any other way. The poem is about patterns and predictability, about rhythms and the complex ways human beings respond to patterns. It contrasts the horse’s habituated responses to the human, if less predictable, response of the speaker. The human being must be able to break conventions and rhythms as well as create them. The poem is, finally, about more abstract conventions and rhythms, those of knowledge and understanding, or those of history and the movement of time; it is about how one discovers beauty within these rhythms. It also is about smaller patterns—social manners and expectations, habits enforced by hunger and sleep. The poem is about the boundaries and limits within which human beings live and—Frost’s denials to the contrary—the limits within which one must die.
Theme of Stopping by the wood s on a snowy evening
The poem “stopping by the woods on a snowy evening” is written by Robert Frost. The poem is set in the woods and the speaker here is the stranger who stopped there, admiring what his eyes saw, the beautiful view. In the opening stanza, the poet wonders about owner of the woods and thinks he knows him. The stranger is in the woods and has a horse which thinks its weird that its owner has stopped in a place that does not have a farmhouse , but a place that is in between the woods and the frozen lake. The woods are cold, dark, silent, lifeless and deep. He is the only person there and can hear the “sweep of easy wind and downy flake”. The stranger wants to stay there but he cannot since he has to go back, to where he came from. There are many symbols in this poem that have acertain meaning to it. The woods represent journey in life, but since its winter the trees are bare that give a sad image. The horses’ bell brings back the stranger to reality and make him conscience of the surrounding. There is a conflict in a sense that the winter represents sadness but the snowflakes show happiness. The theme revolves aroun the poet’s philosophy, the stranger here is really sad and would love to stay in the woods where he is all alone (except the horse) away from the rest of the world. He has to decide whether he should just end there or get back to his responsibilities. We know this because he says “the woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep.” He has to decide between temptation and his responsibilities. In conclusion, the poet tries to tell us that everyone in life has their shares of ups and downs, and many are tempted to end their lives but then there are more important things in your life, like your responsibilities towards certain things.
We're not going to lie, nature seems pretty darn scary in this poem. Not scary like it's going to throw thunderbolts at our speaker or let hungry tigers lose on him, but scary in that it is mysterious and even rather seductive. Our speaker is almost enticed into staying and watching the woods fill up with snow, but if he stays too long, we've got to believe that he might freeze to death, catch a really bad cold, or forget his way home. Nature is a beautiful siren in this poem, compelling our speaker to hang out in spite of the dangerous consequences.
The first thing that stands out is the abundance of the sound of /s/; not a line is without the /s/ and its "sibilant" sound. The /s/ here imitates the sound of snow and the hush of silence: "The only other sound’s the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake." The /s/ forms the underpinning for the tone. The other sounds build upon this and create the full poetic tone. It will be interesting to compare the tone created by phonetics (sounds) to the tone created by word meanings.
After the hushed, soothing tone of /s/, what is most noticeable is the open, or rounded, vowels and diphthongs /o/ /oo/ /ow/ /ou/ /or/ /ar/. These are alternated with the close, or bright, vowel sounds of /e/ /i/. The tone created by these gentle vowel sounds is that of calm and dreaminess.
This dreaminess is given a syncopated counterpoint with the crisp, plosive consonants /t/ /p/ /d/ /k/ /st/. Dreaminess carried too far may become mere boredom. Crisp consonants prevent this from happening. The other consonants that appear, /n/ /w/ /l/ /h/ /m/ /qu/ /z/ /y/ /f/, add reinforcement to the calm, hushed, and soothing tone created by Frost's phonetic choices.
Tone of the Poem
Frost's implementation of his principle of "the sound of sense" very deliberately creates a specific and readily perceived tone that is calm, dreamy, hushed, and soothing. This tone, built through phonetic sound, corresponds with the dreamy, comforting, and peaceful tone created by the word meanings.
We must conclude that the tone of the poem is dreamy, comforting, soothing, calm, and hushed. This tonal description coincides with the New England mentality of peacefully blanketing snow and completely contrasts with the archetypical idea of malevolent, dark, deep, and snowy woods. This means that the thematic meaning of the poem will coincide with the toneand will not align with dangerousness or fearfulness because tone undergirds thematic meaning; tone does not undermine it. Tone builds theme; it does not contradict theme.
ELEMENTS OF THE POEM NARRATIVE
There are five primary elements in the poem narrative: the man, the little horse, the villager, snowy woods, and miles to go before sleep. One element often overlooked is the little horse. It is often seen as an incidental, as scenic dressing of no great importance. Yet when Frost talked about writing the poem, he spoke of it as a poem "about the snowy evening and the little horse." For Frost, the little horse was an integral part of the man's journey and experience.
LITTLE HORSE
The little horse is the man's safety during the snowfall. He transports the man through the snowfall to a warm haven. Apparently, he and the man pass this spot--or other spots very much like it--on a regular basis. If this were a novelty, the horse might understand stopping to get the bearings of a new and unfamiliar place. He shakes his head, rings his bells, and tosses his harness as if to ask, "Why are we stopping here? This is no place new to be gazing at. Is there some mistake?"
The little horse and man represent two approaches to the same experience. The man wants to dreamily gaze in wonder, while the horse finds nothing in the familiar scene to attract undue attention. There is no sense of irritation, anxiety, or disgust in the little horse's speculated reaction. There is just matter-of-fact questioning about a possible mistake. So, one approach to seeing the scene is to see it and find nothing notable and pass on, which is what the little horse wants to do. The alternate approach is to watch it, to put other thoughts aside for a time and watch the scene. The horse observes the man's response to the scene. Therefore there is a community of observing between the man and the horse that forms a triangle: the man watches the scene; the horse observes the man; the man observes the horse. If the landowner were nearby, the triangle might expand to an encircling community of observing.
 MAN
The man thinks of and alludes to a reciprocal watching: if the owner were nearby, he might watch the man watching the snowy woodland scene. No one is nearby, so the man's watching goes unobserved except by the little horse. Yet the mere mention of the villager landowner creates the awareness of a larger community of reciprocity that the man--and the horse--are part of. In this case, the absence of a representative of community reinforces the existence of community: This man is not a "loner" even though he is at the present moment alone. We can deduce from this that loneliness and despair are not themes, although community and unity are themes.
With poetic minimalism, Frost tells us about the man. He is industrious and engaged in some gainful activity. If this were not so, the little horse would not be surprised at the unexpected halt to watch the commonplace New England scene. The man is kind, gentle, and patient. If this were not so, he would speak to and about the bell-shaking little horse in an entirely different way. The man has importance in life and has goals to attain. If this were not so, he would neither have promises to keep nor care that he kept them. He would not have miles--literal or metaphoric miles--to traverse before he could seek his own rest.
VILLAGER
If the landowner were there, he might participate with the man in experiencing the woodsy, snowy scene by watching him watch his field and woods fill with snow. The little horse stands in contrast to what the owner does because the owner is not there within eye-shot: the horse is part of the observing community, while the absent owner is part of the implied extended community.
If the snow-filled wood metaphorically represents the land sleeping after the seasons of hard labor and toil, then the man has seasons of labor and toil to go before he reaches his winter's rest; he has a long life to live, having promises/ assurances to others to fulfill before his life's work is through. In this case, while he may be weary and longing for the blanket of white peace and comfort for his final rest in death, it is more likely, considering the tone of the poem,that he is affirming the path of life he is on and the promises he has made to himself about what he will attain and the promises he has made to others in his community, like the little horse and the absent landowner-villager, about what he will do or be for them.
WHAT DOES THE WOODS THEME REPRESENT?
To get a good idea of what is represented by the wood theme, let's consider the characters in the narrative. There are three characters: the little horse (very important to Frost since he describes the poem as being about the "snowy evening and the little horse"); the man, who is also the poetic speaker; and the owner of the woods.
Each of these characters is an observer and an individual participant. The little horse observes the man stopping. It is also an individual participant because it doesn't share the man's interest in a wood filling with snow; it has its own opinion. It seems to perceive the wood filling with snow as being exactly like all the woods filling with snow it has ever seen and discerns no reason to give special attention.
The man is an observer of the snowy woods on the snowy evening. He is an individual participant because he interacts with the little horse; he psychologically interacts with the absent landowner; he contemplates the effect of the woods filling with snow.
The owner of the woods is an observer in absentia. Were he there, it is probably true that he would observe, not the woods, but the man watching the woods fill with snow. By saying that the owner "will not see," the man strongly implies that were he there, he would see. The owner is an individual participant in absentia because his conjectured interest stands in contrast to the little horse's lack of interest. The three form a community. This community is an implied extension to the population surrounding the owner living in the village.
The three elements we've talked about--tone, biographical information, and characters representing community--form the foundation for understanding the woods theme.
Firstly, the woods represent the gathering of community interests that are as friendly, lovely, yet as dark and deep as the woods themselves. Woods are dark and deep while being lovely in the same way that members of a community are a bit mysterious and definitely complex, or "dark and deep," though exceedingly lovely. Just as it is lovely to contemplate the changing shades of the woods in its changing seasons, so is it lovely to contemplate the changing shades of community in its changing progressions.
Secondly, the woods represents promises made to the community, which includes oneself. While it is pleasant to contemplate in a reverie the physical beauties of the woods and the represented beauties of a community, there are promises made to the community that cannot be neglected, promises made to oneself that cannot be neglected. Before us, in these three characters, we see four examples of promises made:
(1) The man has made promises to the little horse to care for it, feed it, shelter it and not keep it out in the cold an unreasonable time.
(2) The horse in turn promises by its nature to be the man's companion and to transport the man safely to the appointed destinations. This is why it shakes its harness and bells; it knows there are places to go and promises to keep and so seeks to remind the man that they must hasten on their way.
(3) The man has made an implicit promise to the owner of the woods to respect his ownership even while admiring what is owned; he has made a promise to honor their community bonds.
(4) The owner has made a promise in absentia to trust the man and appreciate his admiration of his woods: were he there, he would not chase the man off but would join in observing in the spirit of community sharing.
This analysis of the woods theme as representing community and promises made to the community is confirmed in the poem "New Hampshire." One particular point Frost makes, which is one of the surprises of the poem, is that crossing the "boundary" from Massachusetts to New Hampshire confronted Frost with unexpected depth in friendships.
As the man and the little horse stop in front of the woods filling up with snow, the man contemplates community and the horse reminds him of his promises, of his places to go. After a friendly, dreamy reverie about the beauties of woods and communities, the man bestirs himself to remember the miles he has to go in life to fulfill the promises made--including the promises made to himself to achieve and attain--to those who depend upon him in one way or another. Biographical information and the circumstances coming immediately before the penning of "Stopping by Woods" suggest Frost may have been thinking of those whose friendship and community was of a deeper quality than friends he had formerly known: "I'd sure had no such friends in Massachusetts...."
When trying to understand the evening theme, two points are critical to address when analyzing the evening setting. First, Frost says "evening" twicein the poem. He says it once in the title and once again at the end of the second stanza, as seen in the above quotation. Second, a very important step in understanding the evening theme is understanding the definition of "evening and how "evening" differentiates from "night."
Definition of Evening in Setting
Defining "evening" can be a little difficult because it is one of the modern English words that has undergone a subtle change in definition. The original English definition for "evening" was "'grow towards night,'" as evening extended from late afternoon to dark. Some dictionaries still define evening as "late afternoon until nightfall." Most commonly, though, the contemporary definition of evening is "the latter part of the day and early part of the night"(extending "evening" into dark hours). This is the one that is most applicable to the poem, since it encompasses a period during which activity still occurs before bedtime in a middle, dark part of night.
The time of the setting, then, is anytime between sunset and the man's bedtime. Since he still has much to do, "But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep," we might reasonably conclude that the evening is young still: He has much time ahead of him before bedtime.
What Is Evening Representing?
Evening is the restful time between the rigors of day and the refreshing sleep of night when we can devote our attention to community and to promises to our community. During the laborious hours of day, our attentions are focused on labor, performance, earning our keep. During the hours of evening, even dark hours of evening, our attention is turned toward home, family, friends, community obligations of various sorts (e.g., choirs to sing in, committee meetings to attend, theater performances to enjoy). "Evening" tells us, twice, that Frost isn't presenting a dark aspect but a unifying, comforting aspect of being and living.
EVENING THEME
Based upon the above analysis, it is possible to identify the meaning of the evening theme. First of all, we know it is not insignificant that the setting is evening, nor is it insignificant that the evening is snowy. These two aspects of the setting separate the poem from the symbolism of night and darkness, even though dark has mention in the poem. Secondly, we know the evening is aglow in the reflective light of the falling and accumulating snow. This glow further separates the meaning of the poem from the symbols of dark and night. We can draw the conclusion that, rather than relating to fear, melancholy, pessimism (even death, as some suggest), this poem is about loveliness, optimism, peaceful contemplation and promises made to self and others: Perhaps the man would like to linger longer in transfixed reverie but, as both he and the little horse know, there are places to go and things to do.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
The evening theme ties the surrounding snowy glow together with the solstice's and woods' darkness to create a new light that equates with optimism and the opportunity to be and to do and to keep promises. This theme is presented as an early end of the day's toil--early because of the snow and the earlier darkness; an early return to the bosom of family and friends; a long evening of food, pleasure, revitalization and rest. These pleasures are the man's compensation for having to cut short his mesmerized contemplation of the glowing loveliness before him. These are also a solstice's long, pleasing preparation for the miles to go and promises to keep as the days lengthen and become warmer and sunnier.

Robert Frost: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (1923)

On a dark winter evening, the narrator stops his sleigh to watch the snow falling in the woods. At first he worries that the owner of the property will be upset by his presence, but then he remembers that the owner lives in town, and he is free to enjoy the beauty of the falling snow. The sleigh horse is confused by his master’s behavior — stopping far away from any farmhouse — and shakes his harness bells in impatience. After a few more moments, the narrator reluctantly continues on his way.
Analysis
In terms of text, this poem is remarkably simple: in sixteen lines, there is not a single three-syllable word and only sixteen two-syllable words. In terms of rhythmic scheme and form, however, the poem is surprisingly complex. The poem is made up of four stanzas, each with four stressed syllables in iambic meter. Within an individual stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme (for example, “know,” “though,” and “snow” of the first stanza), while the third line rhymes with the first, second, and fourth lines of the following stanza (for example, “here” of the first stanza rhymes with “queer,” “near,” and “year” of the second stanza).
One of Frost’s most famous works, this poem is often touted as an example of his life work. As such, the poem is often analyzed to the minutest detail, far beyond what Frost himself intended for the short and simple piece. In reference to analyses of the work, Frost once said that he was annoyed by those “pressing it for more than it should be pressed for. It means enough without its being pressed…I don’t say that somebody shouldn’t press it, but I don’t want to be there.”
The poem was inspired by a particularly difficult winter in New Hampshire when Frost was returning home after an unsuccessful trip at the market. Realizing that he did not have enough to buy Christmas presents for his children, Frost was overwhelmed with depression and stopped his horse at a bend in the road in order to cry. After a few minutes, the horse shook the bells on its harness, and Frost was cheered enough to continue home.
The narrator in the poem does not seem to suffer from the same financial and emotional burdens as Frost did, but there is still an overwhelming sense of the narrator’s unavoidable responsibilities. He would prefer to watch the snow falling in the woods, even with his horse’s impatience, but he has “promises to keep,” obligations that he cannot ignore even if he wants to. It is unclear what these specific obligations are, but Frost does suggest that the narrator is particularly attracted to the woods because there is “not a farmhouse near.” He is able to enjoy complete isolation.
Frost’s decision to repeat the final line could be read in several ways. On one hand, it reiterates the idea that the narrator has responsibilities that he is reluctant to fulfill. The repetition serves as a reminder, even a mantra, to the narrator, as if he would ultimately decide to stay in the woods unless he forces himself to remember his responsibilities. On the other hand, the repeated line could be a signal that the narrator is slowly falling asleep. Within this interpretation, the poem could end with the narrator’s death, perhaps as a result of hypothermia from staying in the frozen woods for too long.
The narrator’s “promises to keep” can also be seen as a reference to traditional American duties for a farmer in New England. In a time and a place where hard work is valued above all things, the act of watching snow fall in the woods may be viewed as a particularly trivial indulgence. Even the narrator is aware that his behavior is not appropriate: he projects his insecurities onto his horse by admitting that even a work animal would “think it queer.”