It is simplistic to state that an individual moves through their life from the beginning to the end without ever having taken a moment to determine if their path is sufficient for claiming it to be a life. At times, these moments may occur without any true intention of evaluating one’s life while at others, the realization may be so forthcoming that the course of that path essentially changes in that instance. Such clarity is best achieved when the mental slate is clear and the typical activities do not conflict with the stream of thought. In other words, when a person is able to think, by not thinking, they are able to connect more meaning to their life and bring about changes should they be deemed necessary. In Robert Frost’s, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,’ the narrator is able to achieve this clarity of his purposeful path through the blank slate of the snow, changes in his routine, and a resolution of his internal conflict.
It is first notable that it is difficult to collect one’s thoughts when the life appears to be dark and disoriented. Frost (2016) describes the woods as being ‘lovely, dark, and deep’ (13). Much like life itself, it can be lovely, but it can also appear to be overwhelmingly dark, at times. Yet, Mahfouz (2012) points out that Frost (2016) was able to paint a clean canvas for which the narrator to think by blanketing a white snow across the dark woods. This is symbolic of being able to completely clear one’s mind regardless of how dark and deep their normal thinking pattern may be in order to open up their mind to clarity. Charters (2011) adds that this allows for a separation of the ID, Ego, and Superego as the three are removed, momentarily, and the narrator is able to view his life as a clean and natural state.
It is further recognized that one cannot consider things in a fresh manner if their habits keep them from viewing a new perspective. For this reason, Frost (2016) placed the narrator outside of his typical comfort zone. This is noted as the ‘little horse must think it queer; to stop without a farmhouse near’ (Frost, 2016, 5-6). Ciardi and Williams (1959) explain that this allows the narrator to go from this normal, narrow life to something much larger in his understanding of his routine. Just as the author took the poem from specific to broad, a specific routine can be viewed in the larger context of life when the narrator is able to change his typical habits and take the moment that is necessary for clarity. Freeman (2002) adds that change is an experience in itself and, by allowing the reader to experience this change in routine along with the narrator, the element of fearing change can be removed.
Finally, the narrator is able to utilize his blank slate and change in his routine in order to achieve a state of clarity regarding his purpose. According to Rodrique and Mashibini (2014), clarity comes when a person spends time in ‘the spaces between them where doubt and uncertainty linger before a decision is made’ (pg. 2). For the narrator, these spaces are between the normal events of his life, the village, and the lost sensation of being in the dark woods. He is not physically lost as he knows the owner of the woods, but he allows himself to become mentally lost in this space. It would be easy to remain lost and to avoid returning to his normal routine, but he has ‘promises to keep; and miles to go before [he] sleep[s]’ (Frost, 2016, 14-15). Although it is comforting, and to some extent necessary, to take such a break from reality, the purpose of continuing is well defined through his moment of clarity.
Robert Frost’s, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,’ takes the reader on a path for clarity as the narrator is able to achieve this clarity of purpose through the blank slate of the snow, changes in his routine, and a resolution of his internal conflict. While it is clear that the narrator would enjoy remaining lost, the white snow provided him with a blank mind and the changes in his routine allowed him to evaluate the purpose of that routine. In the end, the narrator recognizes that his life has meaning and that he must continue to live in his reality in order to fulfill that meaning. However, the momentary break from reality is a necessary element of life that should be embraced as a moment of clarity.
- Charters, P. (2011). Word by Word: A Psychological Analysis of ‘Stopping by Woods on a
Snowy Evening’.’Una Voce, 28.
- Ciardi, J., & Williams, M. (1959).’How does a poem mean?'(pp. 994-1007). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Freeman, M. H. (2002). Momentary stays, exploding forces: A cognitive linguistic approach to the poetics of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.’Journal of English Linguistics,’30(1),
- Frost, R. (2016). ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.’ Poem Hunter. Retrieved from:
- Mahfouz, S. M. (2012). Painting with Words: Imagery in Selected Poems by Robert
Frost.’Dirasat: Human & Social Sciences,’39(1).