Acquainted with the Night

“Acquainted with the Night” Analysis

Robert Frost's “Acquainted with the Night” describes a life that was filled with depression caused by isolation. This could easily be written from Frost's own personal experiences, since he is known to have had a very sad life with losses of many close relatives that would leave him feeling from alone and detached. Through the title's literal meaning, Frost illustrates how he is very familiar with these dark and lonely feelings that night brings. The night is not anything that is new to him. He uses a very descriptive setting, various symbols, and a unique style to develop his poem. Robert Frost “Acquainted with the Night” uses symbols such as the rain, the darkness and quietness of the night, the watchman, and the moon to illustrate his depression due to his isolation, as well as a unique poetic form to emphasis the poem's tone.

Different types of weather, place, and time can often symbolize different feelings in a poem. The poem states: I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. / I have outwalked the furthest city light (Frost 2-3). The speaker explains how he has felt ‘rain' on him over and over again. In this sense, he feels a raincloud over his head that will not go away. The rain is a metaphor of his depression because he cannot escape the feelings inside him.

Also, since the speaker has “outwalked the furthest city light” (Frost 3), he is now in complete darkness. His depression cannot become any worse. The speaker also uses actions that emphasize his isolation. “I have looked down the saddest city lane. / I have passed by the watchman on his beat / And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain” (Frost 4-6). The saddest city lane symbolizes that his sorrow cannot get any worse. The speaker feels he has been the saddest he will ever be.

The speaker also cannot look at the watchman because he cannot explain himself at all. He does not seem to care for the watchman keeping his beat, and is apathetic to time. Roaming the gloomy streets at night, the speaker has no one around to lift his spirits. The speaker repeatedly states “I have” to emphasize he has walked the streets a number of times before. The repetition of “I have” in “Acquainted with the Night” shows the importance of time. The speaker has lost all care for anything, even time itself since there is no one to wait on him or him on anybody else. Why should he feel the need to know the time if he has no obligations? The watchman has a schedule and purpose but the speaker does not and is just wandering aimlessly. The moon also ties into time. The moon is a “clock against the sky” that “proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right” (Frost 12-13).

Frost goes on to state: “When far away an interrupted cry / Came over houses from another street, / But not to call me back or say good-by…” (8-10). He imagines he hears someone crying out his name, but for no important reason. The speaker may feel as if he is invisible to the world and that he has lost his place in society. This cry could easily be from within the speaker. The cry, again, shows his intense loneliness and yearning for someone to call out his name and want to be with him.

Frost style also helps to portray his depression. He uses a terse rime rhyme scheme, meaning the stanzas rhyme in an aba bcb cdc dad aa form. By helping connect one stanza to the next, terse rhyme scheme helps Frost poem to flow. This rhyme scheme keeps the reader in anticipation for the next stanza (Bolton). The reader reads the last line the same as the first, which creates a circular feel. Neither the speaker nor the reader discover and mature any because no new idea comes from the poem. The speaker cannot seem to be able to stop the spinning wheel and is stuck in his frustration with life. He is very acquainted with the darkness of the night and cannot escape it.

Through the symbols and poetic style, Robert Frost describes his situation very well. The speaker's frustrations are seen throughout the poem. The reader can feel his emotions through the Frost illustration of the dark, dreary, rainy night. There is just a streetlight and the moon to light his way, so all is not totally lost. There is hope for him if he will focus on the light and not the darkness that surrounds him. He could talk to the watchman if he lifted his eyes, acknowledged him, and started a conversation. His life does not have to be a vicious cycle. He has been engulfed and cannot break away.

Works Cited

Augustine. “City of God”. New York: Random House (Modern Library), 1994.

Bolton, Matthew J. Literary Contexts in Poetry: Robert Frost's “Acquainted with the Night.” 1.1 (2007): 7. Literary Reference Center. EBSCOhost. Gwinnett Technical Coll. Lib., GA. 12 February 2010. < =http://web.ebscohost...

Cramer, Jeffrey S. Robert Frost among his Poems: A Literary Companion to the Poet's Own Biographical Contexts and Associations. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1996.

D'Avanzo, Mario L. A Cloud of Other Poets: Robert Frost and the Romantics. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991.

Frost, Robert. “Acquainted with the Night.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eds. Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. 10th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. 576.

St. John of the Cross. “Dark Night of the Soul”. New York: Doubleday, 1959.

Thompson, Lawrence and R. H. Winnick. Robert Frost: A Biography. New York: Holt, Reinhardt, and Winston, 1981.

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