Perseverance in Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Epictetus once wrote, "First say what you would be; and then do what you have to do." This aphorism of self-discovery and obligation clearly describes Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." In the course of the poem, Frost's speaker is confronted with two choices: he can either forget his problems or he can follow through with his responsibilities and make the most of life. It is through Frost's remarkable presentation of the speaker's thoughts that the reader may see how difficult this decision can be. Through powerful elements, such as alliteration, rhythm, and imagery, Frost stresses the importance of perseverence and facing one's fears and obligations.
To accentuate the importance of perseverance as opposed to giving up, Frost uses clear alliteration in the speaker's thoughts. In the beginning, the speaker's flowing words accent his state of near acquiescence with his dream world. But soon, reality reminds him of his responsibilities when the speaker's horse "gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake" (Frost 9-10). Frost ingeniously employs the sudden, harsh k alliteration to emphasize the demands of the real world upon the speaker. However, Frost reveals the speaker's confusion over what path to choose when he realizes "The only other sound's the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake" (Frost 11-12). Frost's usage of the soft s and w sounds of the peaceful snow contrasts with the harshness of the real world and persuades the speaker that much more to forget his obligations. Furthermore, according to John T. Ogilvie, "the repetition of 'sleep' in the final two lines suggests that he may succumb to the influences that are at work" and give up (Ogilvie 7). However, Frost's use of the soft, peaceful s sounds in the final two lines clearly mark the speaker's realization that he has to do what is right "before [he] sleep[s]" (Frost 15-16). Through clever and distant alliteration, Frost displays the importance of deciding whether to remain strong and press forward or to cowardly give up.
Despite its possibly being the more difficult path, Frost signifies the essence of perseverence through rhythm. Throughout the poem, Frost employs a repetitive, trance-like rhythm to compliment the speaker's struggle to fight off reality and remain in his carefree world. Furthermore, Jhan Hochman explains it as "an ingenious form of interlocking rhyme: the third unrhymed line of the first three stanzas provokes the subsequent stanza's rhymed sound" (Hochman 4). Frost's use of rhythm is an eloquent and clever element that expresses the weak and weary state of the speaker in his moment of a life-changing decision. Yet, in the last stanza frost brings his flowing lines to an abrupt halt with "But I have promises to keep" (Frost 13). With this line, Frost not only shifts the meter of the poem, but also signifies the speaker's realization that he...