Archive for August, 2013

How the elements of poem, especially symbol, determine the theme seen in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.


I. Introduction

The symbols and theme are very important in this poem. Therefore, I am interested in analyzing how those two elements related. In analyzing theme of a poem, you can understand each symbol first, which is the object of analysis and make the other elements of the poem as a proponent in determining or analyzing the theme of the poem. The following questions can help you in analyzing theme through symbols. First, does the narrator like what he sees around him? Second, are there repeating patterns or symbols? And the last, does the symbol have positive or negative meaning to the narrator?

The word ‘woods’ in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a symbol integral to understanding the poem’s theme. The narrator liked what he saw around him, the woods. The symbol ‘woods’ has repeated four times in the poem. In addition, the symbol has positive meaning to the narrator if you look at lyric of the poem. All the questions above have been answered.

In order to facilitate you in understanding the symbols and themes in a poem, especially in stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, it is good for you to know the meaning of them first.


In the broadest sense a symbol is anything which signifies something; in this sense all words are symbols. In discussing literature, however, the term “symbol” is applied only to a word or phrase that signifies an object or event which in its turn signifies something, or has a range of reference, beyond itself. Some poets, however, repeatedly use symbols whose significance they largely generate themselves, and these pose a more difficult problem in interpretation (Abraham, 2003). In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, there are some symbols used by the poet. They are woods, little horse and snow. But, this essay focus on ‘woods’, the other elements only as a proponent in analyzing how symbol relates to theme in the poem.


A topic of discussion or writing; a major idea broad enough to cover the entire scope of a literary work (Abraham, 2003). You can say that it is the main idea the poet is trying to express. Understanding a central theme in poetry takes some concentration on each individual poem. Some themes stand out, some are subtle.

II. Analysis

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a poem written by Robert Frost in 1922. The poem talks about a man traveling through some snowy woods on the darkest evening of the year, and he is pretty much in love with what he sees around him. He is on his way back to town, but he cannot quite tear himself away from the lovely and dark woods.  The first sentence already talked about the woods. As we know, the word ‘woods’ shows the togetherness. The point is more than one. And maybe the togetherness of the woods made it look deep and dark, beside the influence of the evening of course. I found the word ‘woods’ contrast to the poet, who is alone “between the woods and frozen lake.” The poet was fascinated by the beauty of the woods. It is the natural beauty. We get the sense that the poet is not alone because of the woods, even though he is very much by himself.

Some interpret the woods as an extended metaphor for death. In the last stanza of this poem, it is argued that the woods symbolize death because of the ambience of gloom from the “lovely, dark and deep” woods (Ryan, 1991). It is also suggested that the poet’s trip represent life, and hence it is his time to sleep that signifies a person’s time to die (Vail, 1976).

In the beginning of the poem talked about woods. In the second stanza Frost refers back to the woods. Then in the last stanza Frost mentions woods again. Even though the narrator has a long way to go, he always has enough time to stop and watch the small thing in nature in detail. This goes to show that Frost’s interest in nature is very large, and he portrays this through his characters. He describes the woods as lovely, dark, and deep. Death, to some, is lovely. It is definitely dark, and the grave is deep. When he is in the woods he is far away from the city. The city can be considered a symbol of life. There is always a lot going on in a city. He knows that it is not his time to die, and he cannot stay in the peaceful woods. His horse reminds him that it is not his time to die by making noise and disturbing the serenity of his moment or death. At the end of the poem the line referring to miles before he can sleep lets the reader know that the narrator still has some time to continue his life before his death.  ‘Miles to go’ also means something to do before his death.

III. Conclusion

In conclusion, Frost used symbolism, including characters and objects, in an effort to create the various themes for the reader. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening talks about death. It because the word ‘woods’ in the poem is repeated four times. It means that the narrator emphasizes on its meaning. As what was mentioned earlier, the word ‘woods’ represent death to the narrator.


Abrams, M. H. 2003. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Massachusetts: Earl McPeek.

Ryan, B. (1991). Major 20th-century writers: a selection of sketches from

        contemporary authors. Detroit: Gale Research.

Vail, D. (1976). Robert Frost’s imagery and the poetic consciousness. Lubbock:

        Texas Tech University.