Nature is a beautiful and mysterious entity. It is vast and can have you wandering and wondering until you are lost both physically and mentally. Just being surrounded by nature can have you feeling up or feeling down. The immensity of it all can be impressive yet overwhelming. Just like the converging feelings nature can provide, Robert Frost uses the natural environment to describe certain lifetime outlooks and attitudes in very different ways. Nature in its very definition is a phenomenon. Maybe it is because of this that Robert Frost wrote so many poems regarding nature. Or maybe it was just because nature is what inspired him the most. Maybe it was because nature was a pure way that he could envelop and disguise his feelings and alternative meanings into a poem. Kind of like how nature pulls meanings and feelings out of anyone that spends any time in its power. Throughout this essay, we will analyze and contrast two of Robert Frost’s poems, “The Road not Taken”, and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Though each poem is rooted in nature, he uses different analytical devices and tones to portray equally intense but diverging attitudes towards certain experiences in life.
We will start with “The Road not Taken” which has very traditional but unique verses that are different from other poems. When this poem is first read, it is thought to only be a poem regarding nature. In the first stanza, he paints a picture of a peaceful road that leads into a yellow wood, but with further reading, it is easy to see that there is a stronger, deeper meaning. Frost uses extended devices such as imagery and metaphors to describe and compare his “Road not Taken” to the unexpected paths that life throws out. This poem is his way of conveying a message that is relatable to every reader. That there are challenging choices that everyone has to take in their life, and only they are responsible for the choice they make. The message is a strong one, but it is also easy enough for every reader to see and compare to their own life and their own experiences. This is another thing that makes it unique, because it hits and is interpreted differently with every person that comes across it. Frost very clearly walks you through his decision-making path. He starts off by approaching a fork in the road. Both roads diverge “in a yellow wood”. This causes him to stop and thoughtfully consider the choices that lay ahead of him. Then, to help him make his decision he “look(s) down one as far as” one could. This shows that he is not interested in rushing into a big life decision, and though he tries to gather all the right information, he cannot find any insight into the future. Readers can easily compare this to their own lives, trying to determine the outcome of their own decisions but being unable to be exactly sure what will happen. Frost then decides to take the second road due to it being “grassy and want(ing) wear)”. He takes the road less traveled. This gives the reader an insight into who Robert Frost is as a person, he is daring and adventurous and makes his decisions according to what he wants and not anyone else. Then in the third stanza he says “Oh, I kept the first for another day” deciding that though he took the road less traveled, he might want to go back and try the first road at another time, but then he says, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back”. Once again, readers can relate to this because Frost is talking about the harsh realities of life and choosing which decisions to make, which paths to take, and then once those decisions are made, questioning if they were the right ones.
“Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening” has a more somber tone than the first poem. While it is also in a natural setting, it paints a very calming, almost ominous, peaceful image of nature. This poem also has fewer literary devices than the first, there are no extended metaphors or similes here, but he does continue to use some less direct extended imagery throughout this poem as well. In the first stanza the mood and tone are set. A man has a certain destination he is traveling to and the mood that Frost portrays him makes it seem as if he does not want to go on this journey. He mentions that he knows the person who owns this land and that he, “will not see me stopping here/To watch his woods fill up with snow”, then he goes on to mention that his house is in the village. This makes it very evident that these woods are very special to him because he stops there on a dreary, snow fallen evening when they are far away from his home in the village and civilization. In the second stanza the extended imagery starts, Frost describes the chill of the night by the “frozen lake” and describes it as being the “darkest evening of the year”. Not only does this describe the physical properties of his location, but it could also describe how he is feeling on the inside as well. After that he says, “My little horse may think it queer/To stop without a farmhouse near”. This line is telling the reader once again, how important these woods are to him. Because he knows that it is out of his way to stop, but he does so anyway. Robert Frost seems to be portraying the message in this poem that, people are always busy in life, and they often want to stop and reflect, but all the other things demanding their attention keep them from doing so. In the last stanza, the man has still not moved from the woods and his horse is beginning to get anxious. He says he “gives his harness bells a shake/To ask if there is some mistake”.
These interruptions from his horse cause the narrator’s thoughts to be interrupted as well. This is also an easily relatable life concept because in life when someone tries to take time to themselves and relax, they are often looked down on or accused of being lazy or ignoring their responsibilities. To wrap the poem up the traveler describes the woods calling them lovely, dark, and deep but then with a sigh, he explains that he cannot stay any longer because he has “promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep”. It could be that just like the first poem, this narrator is traveling the journey through life and that he has made many promises and many goals that he must fulfill before he takes his final sleep and death is upon him. He could also mean that death is truly the only time one is free from the daily stresses and responsibilities of life. By the imagery describing the cold and dark night, Frost emphasizes that even in situations that seem almost impossible, humans have to keep pushing through until the end never giving up, and if they keep doing so, they just might find rest and freedom in their later years.
While it is true that each poem has some similarities, they both have differences as well. Both poems thematically use nature to help portray human experiences and the journey through life. However, they have vast differences as well. “The Road Not Taken” has a tone that is very positive, almost hopeful of what his future has in store for him. Frost takes us into his mind and his decision-making process. “Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening” takes on an entirely different tone. It is very somber, almost hopeless in a way. The narrator of this poem seems to be wanting more than anything some peace and relief from his day to day life but even his horse seems to have an opinion on the matter. This poem seems to be portraying how much life can truly get you down and if you keep working hard at it you might have a chance for some rest at some point. While the first has a more optimistic look leaning more towards being confident in your own decisions and being able to be the writer of your own story. In “The Road Not Taken” Frost primarily uses extended metaphors to portray this specific outlook on life, whereas in “Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening” he primarily uses extended imagery to get his point across instead. Either way he paints the picture of his life at that moment in time, he beautifully uses nature as a common backdrop to take his readers on a journey through his life, his feelings, and his mind, but also does so in a way that is relatable to everyone even years later.
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