The poem Desert Places by Robert Frost tells of the narrator’s sad feelings upon observing a snow-covered field. As he speaks, it becomes clear that the vast emptiness of the landscape is a reflection of the narrator’s own personal sense of isolation.
The first stanza of the poem has an urgent feeling, as “snow” and “night” are “falling fast, oh, fast.” The narrator is gazing into a desolate field that has only “a few weeds and stubble” to remind him that it is a piece of ground farmed by man. Soon, the narrator thinks, all of the field’s distinctive features will be enveloped by the falling snow.
In the second stanza, the narrator acknowledges that the surrounding woods are all that possess the field, saying, “it is theirs.” No other living creature has a claim upon it. The narrator himself is “too absent spirited to count.” This phrase is the first indication of the narrator’s depressed state of mind. He is lonely and feels isolated from the world around him. Because of this, he identifies with the bleak picture before him.
The third stanza reinforces the narrator’s emotional condition. It contains three variations of the word “lonely,” as well as a prediction that things will get worse for him before they get better. There will be “a blanker whiteness of benighted snow,” we are told. Besides referring to the approaching night, this observation could suggest something about the narrator’s emotional deterioration. He believes that his anti-social tendencies will continue to increase just like the falling snow. Like the snow, he will have “no expression, nothing to express.”
The fourth and final stanza addresses the narrator’s attitude towards the mounting snow—and his growing sense of despair. He has previously observed the scene before him with gloomy acceptance. Now, he rebels, declaring, “They cannot scare me with their empty spaces.” He is talking about the field and all such similar places that make him feel lonely and isolated.
In the end, it is not the field—or places like it—that frightens the speaker so much as it is the world he has created inside his mind. His fear of self is made evident in the final two lines of the poem when he says, “I have it in me so much nearer home/To scare myself with my own desert places.”