Robert Frost Speaker/Persona Poems. Comparing Poems "Stopping Essay

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¶ … Robert Frost speaker/persona poems. Comparing poems "Stopping Woods a Snowy Evening," "The Road Not Taken," "Acquainted Night." Argue prove position. Instructions:

1300-1600-word analytical essay arguing to prove the author Robert Frost did use the same speaker/persona in his poems. Comparing poems "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "The Road Not Taken," and "Acquainted with the Night." Argue to prove my position. Using reasonable evidence found mainly in the poems to make points credible. Underline the thesis in the introduction and the topic sentences in the body paragraphs. When possible use short summaries or paraphrases instead of quotes. Please follow MLA document style for manuscript, in-text citation and works cited.

Robert Frost's lyric poetry depends upon a first-person voice which maintains a consistency of tone even as the lyrics strain to push the concrete details of the verse into a kind of symbolically universal significance. Frost is, of course, well-known for his narrative poems or dramatic monologues like "The Witch of Coos" or "Home Burial," but these are beyond the scope of my consideration here. Instead I shall examine three lyrics -- the sonnet "Acqauinted with the Night," and the short rhymed narrative lyrics "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Road Not Taken" -- to demonstrate that Frost's first-person voice maintains identifiable features that suggest we are meant to read these poems as being spoken by the same speaker.

The first thing that connects all these poems is the formal quality of the verse. Frost famously abjured vers libre by declaring that it was like playing tennis without a net, so therefore we ought not be surprised to discover that these three lyrics are all tightly rhymed and metrically constructed. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is written in iambic tetrameter quatrains rhymed in the style of the best-selling volume of poetry from the Victorian era, Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, with a rhyme scheme of A-B-A-A-. (This is altered in the final quatrain, as we shall have occasion to note later). "The Road Not Taken" is similar but with a slight difference: the quatrains become five-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of A-B-A-A-B, and the meter is less regular than "Stopping by Woods." But if the final line of each stanza in the latter poem were removed, the two poems would follow the same rhyme scheme precisely. Meanwhile, "Acquainted with the Night" uses an even more formal mode of versification: it is a fourteen-line sonnet, but it does not follow either the traditional Shakespearean or Petrarchan form for the sonnet. Instead, Frost uses the terza rima most often associated with Dante's Divine Comedy in order to construct a sonnet that progresses with the tercet stanzas using an interlinking rhyme scheme of A-B-A, B-C-B, and so on. In all these cases, Frost marries his plain-spoken and direct diction with the highly wrought and difficult rhyming patterns -- and in each poem, the rhyme scheme is one in which earlier rhymes will resurface unexpectedly. In fact, both "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "Acquainted with the Night" both utilize the same formal trick of anaphora, in which an entire line is repeated at the end of the poem to give a formal close. "Acquainted with the Night" will allow its first and last lines to be the same -- "I have been one acquainted with the night" -- in order to give the impression of circularity; "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" will break its own rhyme scheme in the final stanza to instead achieve formal closure through the repetition of "And miles to go before I sleep." This precise formal technique is modified in "The Road Not Taken" where the repeated line is altered from its appearance in the first line -- "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" -- into a recollection in the final stanza, altered by aposiopesis to become "Two roads diverged in a wood and I -- / I took the one less traveled by." But all these basic formal devices lend resemblances from poem to poem in terms of the basic underlying structure.

The setting of each poem also indicates that the speaker of each is operating in the same world, in terms of the depiction both of nature and of solitude. Each speaker is a solitary wanderer in the landscape which Frost knew all too well, the portions of New England...


In both cases, the overwhelming interiority of the speaker seems to be breaking out, and the other figure is used as a symbol of the speaker's distance from actual social existence. These trends are of course amply matched in "The Road Not Taken," which depicts Frost entirely bereft of any kind of human or animal companionship -- yet the issue of social presence is precisely the subject of the poem, as the narrator chooses between the two paths in the wood, one of which has greater evidence of human presence. It is this one he rejects. All of the speakers in these three poems bear precisely the same relation to solitude and find it matched in the solitary wilderness landscapes presented here, which -- as the speaker progresses into them -- bear only minimal evidence of human habitation. Indeed, when a secondary evidence of human presence comes in "Acquainted with the Night" it stops the narrator in his tracks: it is the presence of other people interrupting solitude that forces the narrator to "[stop] the sound of feet / when…an interrupted cry / Came over houses from another street" -- the mere presence of other people evokes an instinctive response which may indicate why Frost's speakers in each poem place such a premium upon distance from human contact.
But what confirms the identity of Frost's speaker in each of these three poems is Frost's indulgence in a kind of gloomy and ambiguous use of the imagery of nature and solitude to express images of death. Each of these poems works up to a complicated final image, in which we feel that the narrator has broken through from the literal scene to a symbolic meaning. In "Acquainted with the Night," Frost works up to the climactic depiction of the clock -- the ultimate symbol of human presence -- which strikes and "Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right." The ambiguity in this particular statement seems paralleled by the speaker's physical presence at the close of the poem, which occupies a similarly liminal position between unspoiled natural wilderness and the presence of human society. In "The Road Less Travelled," of course, the literal forked path in the midst of the woods is enlarged to a statement about the speaker's overall preference for being alone: "I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference." Of course, the reader is bound to ask at the conclusion of this poem if the "difference" that was made is an indication of the narrator's own "difference" from the vast gregarious masses of human society. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" uses an even more ingenious ramification of this same trick. Here the final stanza's final lapidary anaphora -- "And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep" -- does a tremendous amount of work in terms of unpacking the ambiguous nature of the speaker's love-affair with isolation. The repetition invites the reader to view the first time as a literal statement (he is far away from home and needs to start moving in that direction) but the second time as a kind of figurative one. It invites comparison with Frost's maneuver in "Acquainted with the Night" whereby what it means to be "acquainted with the night" seems to shift meanings over the course of Frost's sonnet between the first use of the phrase (in the title and opening…

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In conclusion, the style and concerns are so similar in each of these three poems that the speaker of each must be the same, and we can identify that speaker with an aesthetically-distanced and finely wrought version of Frost himself. If a reader who was otherwise acquainted with the work of Robert Frost -- but who did not know any of these three poems -- were to encounter them for the first time, I think it is safe to say that each of these poems could be confidently identified as Frost's work on the basis of internal factors alone which they share with his work overall. The formalism is a characteristic of Frost's poems everywhere, even in those which are not first-person lyrics. But it is the use of the late Romantic trope of the solitary wanderer -- familiar from earlier writers like Wordsworth, Rousseau, or Byron -- which links these three particular poems together, and it is the particular use of diction and imagery, as well as the obsessions that underlie each, which link them to each other. In each of these poems, Frost presents a consistent lyric voice which expresses the same type of personal solitary vision.


Frost, Robert. The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged. Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. New York: Holt, 1979. Print.

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