The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

1030 Words5 Pages
The Self and Society in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening For the speaker of Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the time that he takes to stop and view the woods is unusual; his duties and responsibilities don't allow for him to linger. Even so, the speaker finds great pleasure in this unexpected pause in his journey. The binary oppositions present in the poem indicate that, regardless of his responsibilities, the speaker would like to remain in the woods and take in the scene set before him. For it is here in the woods that the speaker feels a sense of individualism; it offers an escape from the communal responsibilities with which he is laden. However, while the "natural" side of the oppositions…show more content…
The horse, as well as the speaker, knows that duty does not include taking in this scene. So, the horse reminds the speaker of his duties by shaking the bells on his harness. Thus, the horse is a sign in another binary opposition: the speaker and the horse. The horse represents responsibility because it is used for labor. In addition, the horse knows a routine, and that routine does not involve stopping in the woods. In the poem, then, the horse's "responsibility" ironically is to keep the speaker on task and remind him that things need to be done. In a sense, the horse becomes a personified symbol of the village and all things connected with the village. In the horse's reminder to the speaker that they must go, the bells on his harness are heard. When the speaker hears them, he is reminded that he is "harnessed" by his duties. While he would rather stay in the woods, he is aware of the fact that he has "promises to keep" (14). It is only because of these promises that he must leave. As a reminder of the village, the harness bells come to oppose the sounds of the woods or the "easy wind" of the woods (12). Perhaps the harness bells sound grating to the speaker; they are not pleasant to listen to because they are a form of what the village represents. The harness bells' opposition (the sound of the wind), though, is comforting and soothing. Only in the woods does the speaker feel this comfort; it is here that he is alone -- an individual complete
Open Document