19 pages 38 minutes read

Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1928

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: “Acquainted with the Night”

There has always been something grand, even noble, in suffering. From the tragic heroes of Antiquity to the Suffering Servant of Judeo-Christian wisdom literature to the doomed figures of Romantic narratives, sorrow has long been imbued with a sobering gravitas. From Oedipus to Christ, from Hamlet to Ahab, from Dimmesdale to Gatsby, from Anakin Skywalker to Elphaba, suffering elevates. By contrast, happiness and contentment in literary characters seem suspect even when it is earned after great trials. No one stays happy for long in literature; after all, a first-semester MFA student understands that conflict creates plot. Literature endows our day-to-day trials, our pointless busyness, our routine heartaches, our casual disappointments, even our deepest sorrows with value that the experience itself lacks. If faux-contentment and sorrowful awareness seem our only alternatives, Frost, offers a third option: irony, that is, sorrow blessed rather than cursed with awareness.

The analysis of “Acquainted with the Night” begins with that premise. The speaker, apparently plagued by insomnia, restless and unable to find his way to the sweet escape of sleep, moves about the empty streets of a rain-soaked city. He belongs in a warm bed, perhaps with a significant other, far from the street.