19 pages 38 minutes read

Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1928

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The Experience of Loneliness

The dominance of the first-person singular pronoun defines the poem’s thematic examination of the experience of loneliness. Whatever the speaker’s emotional strength (or weakness), the speaker moves about the city streets very much alone. The presence of the passing cop and even the muffled cry from some nearby street cannot lessen the feeling of alienation. In fact, the speaker declines even to make eye contact with the “watchman” (Line 5) and quickly assures himself that the “interrupted cry” (Line 8) is not directed to him.

The only other sound is the easy rhythm of the speaker’s own footsteps. But even from that, the speaker feels disconnected: “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet” (Line 7), which is a convoluted way of saying he stopped walking, as if his own feet were not his to control. Because the poem recounts a walk to the outskirts of the city, “[the speaker has] outwalked the furthest city light” (Line 3) to arrive at a place where the busyness of the city with its network of streets and sidewalks, buildings and lights, gives way to the cloaking dark of the country. This sense of distance, disconnection, and apartness further enhances the speaker’s loneliness.