In “Acquainted with the Night”, Robert Frost extends to the reader a feeling of depression and sadness. This relationship is illustrated through the use of establishing a universal theme, by the use of symbolism, the use of connotation and syntax.
The first stanza lays down the platform of the poems meaning. The main meaning of the poem is that it portrays the author’s feelings and emotions. “I have been one acquainted with the night” means that there is knowledge of the night. Acquainted means to be familiar; utilized here it seems that it is being used to show loneliness, in that Frost seems to know the night very well. The night is symbolic with being dark, sad and even alone. “I have walked out in the rain – and back in the rain”, there the symbolism of rain paints a gloomy background which partners with the main theme in representing a dark depression as it sets a negative tone. In most writings, light is symbolic for hope, as night is for depression and darkness. This makes it appear that the author is being weighed down by a heavy burden and that he can no longer see any signs of hope or a way out, therefore, he has become one with the night.
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In the second stanza, the word “saddest” is tied into the theme of burdened or depressed. “I have looked down the saddest city lane”, could mean he is at the crossroads of the path between what is right and what is wrong. It is possible that the reason that he is depressed is because he has chosen to do something illegal hateful or even harmful, and he may possess many regrets. “I have passed by the watchman on his beat, And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.” The “watchman” referred to here could be a god or a higher power. The dropping of the eyes could set the image that he is in fact hiding something and hanging his head in shame.
The third stanza sketches a picture of being alone. “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet”, Frost uses alliteration here with the repeated sounds of the consonant “s”. The repetition of this sound creates a sense of quietness and calming. Because of the ever going experience of being alone, the cry heard in the next line could have been startling or even alarming to the senses.
In the fourth stanza, the first line does the best at selling the theme of loneliness. “But not to call me back or say good-by”; there is no one around. The feeling of being alone has put the speaker into this deep depression. “And further still at an unearthly height, One luminary clock against the sky”. The luminary clock is in reference to the moon. The moon is isolated and alone in the sky, just as Frost feels isolated and alone here on earth. The moon shines its light on the city below and illuminates the many paths of life. This could say that it is believed that the wrong path in life has been taken by Frost, but he is learning to deal with it.
The couplet makes reference to time. “Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right”, is known as a paradox. Could this mean that he is thinking of suicide? There is reference to time in two different instances; there is reference to the “luminary clock” and the word “time”. It is possible that it is time to deal with the punishment of the path that has been chosen. The ending, “I have been one acquainted with the night” is just to remind the reader that he has been down this road before and holds knowledge of it.
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The use of syntax is very heavy in this poem. The way that the writer emphasizes that, “I have been one acquainted with the night” or “I have out walked the furthest city light”. This makes the reader aware that this drought of depression is a never ending cycle and that it continues to happen over and over. The syntax used here is forming the structure of the story that is being told by the writer. Frost is telling us that he has been there and that these are his experiences.
Connotation also plays a big role in the poem’s structure. The use of connotation depicts the values, emotions and images associated with certain words. In this case the words used such as rain, night, saddest, cry, good-by and wrong. This illustration of the literature used demonstrates just how dark and desolate the poem really is.
Frost has used the surroundings in the poem to reflect the speaker’s feelings. The darkness of the night, the rain, and the lack of connection to the surroundings develop the theme of isolation and despair that carry throughout this poem.
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