Personal Darkness Essay, Research Paper
Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain – and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet When far away an interrupted cry Came over houses from another street, But not to call me back or say good-by; And further still at an unearthly height, One luminary clock against the sky Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night. Personal Darkness Darkness: it means something different to us all. For some, it conjures images of guilt, sin or fear; others think it means loneliness or death. It is in this way that the true meaning of “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost becomes ambiguous. It challenges each reader to examine the darkness inside themselves, while it allows that same darkness to be interpreted along with the poem. The journey through darkness is best observable when the poem is broken into five scenes, one for every stanza. The first scene introduces the walker and examines his relationship with the night. The walker has no gender, no age and no race. He can be anyone. It is stated that the walker has a relationship with the night: he is “acquainted” with it. In what way? To be acquainted means to have personal knowledge of something or someone. This is true for the walker since he is comfortable with the night. It brings pleasure to him since he chooses to be outside, even in rain, in order to be near it. It can even be said that he embraces the night. He could stay inside and shut it out, but instead he chooses to wander under the glow of the street lights. End scene one, begin scene two. It is here we learn of the walker’s relationship with things that are outside of the night. In stanza two, the world apart-from-the-night is introduced as the walker encounters people and places along his walk. He gazes down the saddest city lane while feeling nothing and appearing detached from reality. He knows the feeling of sadness – he has felt it himself – and yet he does not feel it for the inhabitants of the houses that line the street. He looks and does not venture any further. The walker then meets the watchman, the intruder in the night. The watchman is not there by choice, rather because it is his job. We can picture the watchman at home with family and friends, but instead he is outside and perhaps drawing his jacket closed to protect himself from the cold. The walker recognizes why the watchman is there and does not reach out. He drops his eyes and does not explain why he is out in the night. It is too difficult to explain. Who could possibly understand this closeness he feels with the darkness? End scene two, begin scene three. We have learned that the walker finds pleasure in secluding himself in the night and we have learned that he has separated from humanity. Is this separation a choice?
In stanza three we learn that the walker is alone by choice. The first image is that of the walker stopping, listening, and, hearing absolutely nothing else. The wind may whistle by his ears, and yet there are no more sounds of footsteps. He is alone. The silence that surrounds him is a result of his choice to stop, and his choice to walk alone in the night. A cry rings out from somewhere far away from the walker, a cry from the rest of humanity. It may remind him of the world that he left behind, perhaps of family or friends. End scene three, begin scene four. The walker is secluded by choice and is faced with the world he has left behind. Will he reach out to it? In stanza four we learn that the cry is not meant for him. It does not “call him back or say good-by,” just as the watchman did not stop him on his way. Even though the walker may be remembering the world he left behind, he chooses to remain visually separated from the people he is already emotionally separated from. He has the night. The moon stares down upon him as an unblinking eye. It is supposed to be there. It is not an intruder. It has always been there. End scene four, begin scene five. The walker has secluded himself from the rest of the world. Will he return to it? In stanza five the moon is a guide for the walker. It watches over his wanderings as it illuminates his path. It advises him on when his walk should end and proclaims the time as “neither wrong nor right.” The walker will not yet return to the world he knew. He will not reach out. End scene five. The poem’s journey is complete. The walker has enclosed himself in the night by choice and he does not appear to want to reach out to the world gone by. In conclusion, what does this poem say about this — or any — individual’s “acquaintance” with the night? As the first line of the poem is repeated as its last, the reader is forced to re-examine the walker’s relationship with the night. We have now seen that the walker is separated by choice and does not choose to reach out to anyone. However, he finally does: the moon. It advises and yet it does not reach back to him. It remains where it is at “an unearthly height.” It does not join the world of the walker. This is perhaps why Robert Frost chose the word “acquainted.” This term conveys the fact that the walker is comfortable with the night. However it also portrays a distance between the two. They are not friends. They simply have knowledge of one another. The walker has walked through the night and found it impartial. He has become acquainted with the night and yet he is not in it. He travels through his own darkness and yet does not become it. His walk is a mere fixation. For most of us, our journey through darkness is also a fixation. We may detach ourselves from reality now and then to daydream, but we rarely act out what is in them. We do not join the night.