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The poem deals with topics through more than one layer. The deepest thematic concern of the poem remains as suggestions. Such as
a) Death. Miles to go before I sleep has always been associated to death rather than regular nightly sleep.
b) Obligation. Even the beauty of Nature can’t stop the traveller because he has promises to keep.
c) the relation between Nature and human beings. The traveller is on his way to perform his chores but comes across the woods, the Nature stuns him yet he goes away.
It is a symbolic poem. The most dominant symbols are A) The woods. It stands for Nature in general and its mystery which has so many effects upon human beings. B) The little horse. It stands as a reminder of reality when the traveller loses himself in reverie. C) Snow. Apart from realism, it stands for the mystery which fills the scene of Nature. D) Sleep. It stands for death, or as many critics say a death wish which one occasionally feels in between the rigidity of responsibilities.
Following figures of speech have been used in this poem.
Metaphor. It is a figure of speech which means something else apart from its literal meaning. Here the poet uses the word “miles” in the last stanza which actually means the life one lives, the whole timeline.
Personification. When something is given with human features. Horse is a personification here who feels like a human being amidst the woods and he tries to inform this to its owner by shaking its harness bell.
Consonance. It is the repetition of consonant sounds. The poem is full of it. Such as “to watch his woods”, “whose woods are these.”
The poet creates imagery according to his idea of sound of senses. The image of woods as a space of wilderness is depicted. The image of snow filling up the woods is also there.
The central idea of the poem is the responsibilities and obligations looming larger than the act of contemplating beauty and idleness. The idea is how before big final death arrives, small deaths of abandoning one’s desires keep happening.