A Comparison of Robert Frost’s “The Hill Wife” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” with Regard to the Representation of Nature

Essay 2012 8 Pages

Literature - Modern Literature


When comparing Robert Frost’s poems “The Hill Wife” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, the first thing that strikes the eye is what ominous and dark connotations the simplest natural events seem to carry. In his poem “The Hill Wife”, Robert Frost invokes a theme of peril by giving a sense of foreboding to everyday occurrences in a married couple’s life. These occurrences are mostly physical and biological events, such as the swarming of birds, the dark in the night, or the scratching on windows of branches moved by the wind. One occurrence however - though not unambiguously so - hints at the reason of the later death of the woman. This incident involves a supposed pedlar, whose smile’s sincerity the woman does not trust when she states “that smile! It never came of being gay” (24). She even suspects him of “watching from the woods” (34) and of having “a vision of us old and dead” (32). When in the end, the woman first is lost and later buried, her husband “learned of finalities / Besides the grave” (73-4). In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, the plot is far more simple, as it basically only illustrates the melancholic rumination on seclusion, civilisation, the temptation of release, and the purpose of continuing life with all its duties of a person standing in the woods. This is done in a rather emotional way, since the logical reflections are not explained, but rather the general mood is illustrated poetically.

In the beginning of “The Hill Wife”, Robert Frost describes the birds going and coming, the respective emotional interpretation of their behaviour by the inhabitants of the house, as well as their criticism with how important they deem this animal behaviour:

One ought not to have to care

So much as you and I

Care when the birds come round the house To seem to say good-bye;

Or care so much when they come back With whatever it is they sing;

The truth being we are as much Too glad for the one thing

As we are too sad for the other here-- With birds that fill their breasts But with each other and themselves And their built or driven nests. (1-12)

The criticism here lies in the last three lines, where the musing leads to the conclusion that all worries and joys connected to the birds’ behaviour are a waste, if one considers that these beasts are only concerned “with each other and themselves” (11). Furthermore, however gloomy nature is portrayed in most of the poem’s parts, the fourth stanza contrasts two different kinds of darkness, and the fact that they were “preferring the out- to the in-door night” (20) reveals that within the house threats are presumed by the couple. This positive relativisation of nature’s dangerousness is reversed in the next stanza, in which the dubious vagrant is supposed to be “watching from the woods” (34). However, nature here is not hazardous on its own, but rather through a human being possibly lingering within it.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
406 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Dortmund
comparison robert frost’s hill wife” stopping woods snowy evening” regard representation nature



Title: A Comparison of Robert Frost’s “The Hill Wife” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” with Regard to the Representation of Nature