What Is the Meaning of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost?

The prevalent interpretation of the meaning of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is that the poem describes the writer’s conflict between solitude and social obligations. The subject of the poem pauses in the woods and feels at peace far from civilization, but eventually has to break the spell: the line “But I have promises to keep” indicates the pull of his obligations and civilization and his need to return.

This interpretation of the poem suggests the conflict between nature and civilization, with the protagonist viewing the woods as an escape from the daily tasks required by society. By opening the poem with a stanza that refers to the unseen owner of the woods being in the village and repeating the theme of solitude by stating that there’s no farmhouse nearby, the poem evokes the peace found in leaving society behind.

The final lines of the poem, which repeat “And miles to go before I sleep,” have been widely debated, with scholars suggesting the poem is about death or suicide. If “sleep” is interpreted as a metaphor for death, then the poem could be about a man contemplating ending his life but deciding that he needs to continue living (“miles to go”) to fulfill his obligations.