It went many years,
But at last came a knock,
And I though of the door
With no lock to lock.

I blew out the light,
I tip-toed the floor,
And raised both hands
In prayer to the door.

But the knock came again.
My window was wide;
I climbed on the sill
And descended outside.

Back over the sill
I bade a ‘Come in’
To whatever the knock
At the door may have been.

So at a knock
I emptied my cage
To hide in the world
And alter with age.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem The Lockless Door


  1. Philip M. says:

    This poem can be interpreted in many ways, i choose the one of depression. It is quite obvious in this poem that the author is subjected to fear and uncertainty, perhaps its death? we dont know. “And i thought of a door, with no lock to lock” this shows that there is a oppotunity present, although he chooses neither to go through it, or enclose it. “i blew the light, i tip toed the floor” this shows the author is taking caution in what he is doing, perhaps its fear of someone or something. ” i emptied my cage” this could symbolise his exiting from his enclosure. This may be when he decides to face reality, but im my opinion i do not think so, i think that he leaves one enclosure for another. One much more deep and secrative, the author has not illustrated any evidence that he has decided to return to the outter world. I think this poem is a reflection of Frost’s life, perhaps its him in the present or past, perhaps he lost a family member and it inspired him to write this poem. There are endless possiblities as this is poetry there is no single correct reply for its analysis.

  2. Nick Ross says:

    “The Lockless Door” by Robert Frost paints a picture of a man trapped within the confines of his own mind; represented by a room with a door that has no lock, hiding from an unnamed terror.

    The poem begins after “many years” have passed, perhaps after the important experience on which the poem hinges. The speaker hears a knock which reminds him “of the door/ With no lock to lock”. If the door is his mind or conscience then what is this terror seeking entry? Whatever it is strikes a great fear into the speaker who continues; “I blew out the light, / I tiptoed the floor, / And raised both hands in prayer to the door”. The extinguishing of the light and the tiptoeing to the door establish a tone of dread and secrecy; the speaker would give anything not to have to face the terror behind the door so he retreats further behind darkness and silence. The prayer is a desperate entreaty to a higher power for the terror to go away.

    The gap between the first and second stanza give the briefest of pauses in which we are left to wonder whether the speaker has been successful. “But the knock came again” to confirm his worst fears and the speaker is forced to assume another hiding position from beneath his windowsill. It is interesting that the speaker doesn’t flee outright then but instead bids the nameless thing “come in”. Despite his fears the speaker does not yet have more than an idea what the thing might be and perhaps it is curiosity which explains this “come in”.

    The last stanza is the most important and the most open to interpretation. “So at a knock I emptied my cage” could mean that the speaker has either confronted his fears with his invitation for the thing enter in the last stanza or perhaps that he has abandoned his confinement. He resolves “to hide in the world / And alter with age” meaning perhaps that he stops living in fear of the thing at his door and gets back to his life.

  3. donguyen says:

    Luke’s poem analysis is correct in highlighting that Frost’s poem can and does have multiple interpretations. However, it seems that the response from Luke is lacking detail or emphasis on any particular aspect of the poem. Unfortunately, I disagree with the idea that the figure in the first stanza was hiding, instead it seems that the figure was simply waiting. If the figure was hiding, it would seem that hiding behind a lockless door is not the most ideal place to hide. I agree with Luke on his insight into the second and third stanza, however, again the insight is too broad. Such a broad insight and analysis really doesn’t offer the understanding that could be shown if Luke perhaps mentioned the significance of praying to the door and perhaps these were prayers to God. I disagree with Luke’s analysis of the fourth stanza. Initially it is difficult to even understand exactly what Luke means when he describes the fourth stanza. The poem does not clearly show that the subject understand “who” the knock is from, where as Luke suggests the subject “knows who it is”. Using the term “whatever” clearly dissociates the “knock” as potentially being anything. Overall Luke offers a broad prospective of the poem, to offer only an overview of what the poem may be about. Overall though, it is ineffective as being an analysis.

  4. Durk Hobbit says:

    I thought the poem was really good. I loved it

  5. bart and richard says:

    We think that this poem is not in fact a metaphor, and the language is too simplistic to warrant the depth of a metaphysical poem. Instead of doubt, the person in the poem is actually fearful of what is behind the door.

  6. Danny and Jinn says:

    This comment in my opinion is quite meaningful, and very understandable, however, there are some narrow thoughts made by Luke which I would like to help clear up.
    Firstly, He states the figure had hid for many, before something came knocking. How do you know that he actually hid or was actually waiting for someone to come to knock on that door?
    In the second, you state that he is hoping this thing will go away, but how do you know that Frost is really wanting this thing to go away, maybe he is simply too afraid to face it? Have you ever considered that?
    In the third, where you say he is escaping out of the window, trying to run away from. How do you support that he is actually escaping? And out of a window? You think of it too literally, and perhaps you have not considered the metaphorical meanings in these words. Is he running from someone? I think not. He could possibly be running away form himself. His own fears and thoughts.
    You say he makes it to the ground…. it doesn’t say he makes it to any ground, it merely states that he descends outside, there are many things to consider.
    In the final stanza you can not be exactly sure that he has run out into the world to hide and change. He may be simply living life without the entity of the knock bothering him.

  7. Willhen says:

    In response to Lukes (Australia) comment on the Lockless door, I agree to his comments.

    I do believe this is a powerful poem. In fact I find it quite personal, as if we can relate the poem’s true meaning into our lives. Such as the decision whether to confront to who or what is knocking at our own lockless doors.
    I also agree that you can interpret the poem in a different way each time you read it, because the poet becomes quite ambiguous as you read on in the poem, thus allowing your imagination to fill in the double meanings.
    Although many of the comments that Luke has made, I do not entirely agree with the last lines of his comment. I do not think that the thing knocking at the door is literally a person but rather the person is trying to run away from something of which he fears in his life. In my opinion, although there are many interpretations of this poem, the person is possibly running away from himself, because he may have some personal guilt or problems with his own conscience about something that happened some years ago. As it is his conscience, the cage in which he tries to hide in cannot hide him because he is trying to hide from himself.

  8. Oprah Chalk-Hatten says:

    sometime. Perhaps he was isolated and had been waiting for someone or something as sharemarket. In many ways, the poem seemed to be telling me that it is about a human who has been on his.her own for so long that he was scared of what is outside, the reality of life, so he tends to stay in his unit, the cage where most things is under his control. When the knock came, it could be his internal self trying to wake him up. After sneaking through the window, the speaker has come out, but is still somewhat safe. The end of the poem proclaims that the speaker has actually entered the surrounding community. The irony in this is that, even though he has gone up from this tiny “cage”, he has only entered a bigger one, one in which he will now dissapear in until he becomes more comfortable.


  9. bart says:

    this poem although not to the standard of the metaphysical poets like donne and marvel, strikes the mind and asks us for a multi levelled interpretation

    this “knocking,” this lockless door is a poosible past memory or incident that has come back to haunt him or continues too. Memories of war and “foul deeds” are things that come too mind. This knocking is a perseverance of the memory in an attempt to adress the problem, and by asking “come in” it is an attempt, although “I climbed on the sill
    And descended outside.
    Back over the sill, showing a conservative and or scared response to what may happen by letting this memory in he shows at best a desire to address this problem. Again this may be one response of many within this building of a poem.

  10. Marcus Wong says:

    This poem seems to be presenting an imagery of the sense of fear that surrounds the author when something comes to haunt him. This fear comes in the form of a knock at the door. The author responds by blowing out a candle in his room. and tiptoe-ing across the floor. This gives us a sense of darkness and tension. you can just imagine the room being dark and silent. This is the initial confrontation the author has with the knock. At first, it seems like he is going to confront the fear. However, the poem later mentions him “Climbed on the sill, and descended outside.”
    From outside, he “bade” a come in. This imagery helps to show the author’s uncertainty or fear of what is to come if the door was opened. In an ironic sense, the author is inviting something in which he does not actually want in. The last stanza is rather confusing. It took a while for me to have my own interpretation of what it really meant. “Emptying his cage” is an interesting imagery. Firstly, the author confronts the fear knocking at the door. This results in the “emptying” bit. But what most readers miss is that he empties his cage, but he does not actually get out of it. So in an ironic sense, the author believes he has confronted and faced his fears. But realistically, he is still trapped in the world of fear and uncertainty. The cage is empty, but he’s still in it.

  11. donguyen says:

    Even though there are many interpretations of the Lockless door, to me is a poem of a person being scared to grow up to a person’s expectation but he also knows it was inevitable. He has been waiting for it for many years and he refers in the first stanza about the door. His room could have been a sanctuary for him over the past couple of years but with the room having a lockless door, he knew he would be called upon and cannot be avoided.

    He blows out his light so he thinks he can hide in his darkness and by tiptoeing he still wants to stay in his room. He prays so that the knock might have been a mistake but the knock comes again. He is then faced with a decision to face it or runaway. Here he knows he does not want to live up to this person’s expectation but he wants to live by his decisions. He runs away out of the window but he calls the person to come in once his out the window. I think he does this out of respect to the person because he does not want to keep the person there waiting and I think it’s also a way of saying sorry, sorry because he has to run away.

    I think Frost wanted to express that every individual should live their own lives and not be left to a person of higher authority e.g. the person behind the door. The lockless door can mean that in life we are not locked into anything, nothing is predetermined for us and we can control our lives to open doors to other paths. However in the poem I think the person was being controlled so he had to find another way to open doors and that was through the window. The end of the poem suggests, the person left his sanctuary and grew up in the real world and also that he lived a long life.

  12. Matt.S says:

    I think that this poem is about the character trying to escape the inevitable death. Llamas like cheese

  13. Matt.S says:

    I think that this poem is about him growing old and trying to escape the inevitable death. Llamas like cheese.

  14. James Banh says:

    Frost’s ‘The Lockless Door’ flows well and can be interpreted very literally.
    Re-reading each line gives a new meaning up until the final stanza. The final
    stanza turns the entire meaning of the poem on its head.

    At first, the speaker seems to be in a room. The room symbolises his own fear of
    something. The knocking on the door may be a reminder of his constant fear.
    However he can’t bring himself to answer it, or to conquer his fear.

    In the second stanza, he tries to make it look like he isn’t there. He submits
    to his fear yet again. He ‘raised both hands in prayer to the door’. This shows that even after all this time, the fear still has power over him.

    When he looks out the window, it suggests that he can finally beat his fear. He takes a step forward and has a look at what might happen if he just answers the knock. He climbs back into the window and decides to answer the knock.

    The final stanza suggests that once he re-enters the room, the answers the door. Because of this, he is finally free of his fear. ‘To hide in the world’, he is able to be normal again and blend in. He can ‘alter with age’, meaning he can grow old in peace and without this fear.

  15. Jinn K. says:

    Not only is this poem rhythmic and flowing, but the contents of it are thoughtful and influencing. Many conclusions and ideas of what Frost was thinking of can be drawn from this poem, and I still am not sure which one is the most accurate.
    In the first stanza, we come to realization that many years had past before a “knock” on the lockless door came. However, some may not notice the part “And I thought of the door”. This line can be interpreted as this lockless door was something of the past, and frost is about to tell a story. So if we look at the first stanza again, it can possibly mean that many years past, and then came a knock on my door, which triggered me to think of my old door with no lock to lock. Then we look at the metaphorical meanings of the words, which may perhaps be metaphorical, or possibly not. For if there was a knock on the door now, that made have triggered frost to think of the story, but this knock may not be the same “knock” that he refers to in the story he tells.
    Now the second third and fourth stanzas can be accepted as being told as a story of the past. And the fifth would be the conclusion, a sort of side note from the writer.

    The story begins with Frost referring to himself as I, blowing out the candle light, tip-toeing across the floor, and then giving a prayer to the “lockless door”. We can accept that this is the actual event, or we can delve deeper into these English words and pull out a metaphorical meaning from this stanza. Blowing out the light could be possibly resembled ridding the “good” of himself, as in perhaps doing something against the law. Light can be assumed as “good”, as the dark can be seen as “evil. Tip-toeing across the floor, may be understood as him doing something secretly not wanting to be heard, and seen for that matter if we think of the light as actual light as well. To raise both hands in a prayer, can be excusing himself, with two hands up to show his innocence and also a prayer to the “lockless door”. But then what is this lockless door we speak of, and perhaps the prayer may have been to the first knock, which is the implied knock which Frost brings in by saying he thought about the door.

    So the mysterious “knock” comes again in the third stanza. A window and we automatically assume that he is inside a room with only a door and window. This window is open wide, and He climbs onto the sill before exiting. Again we can take this information as the actual story, or break it down to turn it into something different. Firstly, he says “My window” this can be taken as he was in his room, or it can also be taken after reading the later lines, as his escape out of not a room, but of confinement. So his escape was wide, wide being it was a good opportunity to take to escape from his confinement. Normally people aren’t able to climb onto a window sill being so small, and also, why does he specify climbing onto the sill? Climbing onto something usually takes effort so we can assume that he is using some effort to get to this “sill” which can be inferred as a midpoint of escape. To descend outside from a window is not that easy. It is possible that he was high up and also he describes it as a seemingly easy task. So maybe he had an easy time getting out of this confinement. Outside can be of many meanings, with it being literal or simply his own guilty conscience.

    The fourth stanza can get rather confusing, as he says “Back over the sill”; if taken literally we assume that he gets back over the window, he then greets the knocker but then says he doesn’t’ know what was the door, we understand then that maybe he didn’t go back in at all, instead part of him goes back not the conscious part but a sense, which then greets whatever was at the door, but Frost himself is no longer inside. However, taking it one more step further into the metaphorical sense we see it as. He retreats back into his confinement and tells the “knocker” to “come in”. This makes us assume that perhaps this knocker is a fear of Frost’s and he is trying to come back to face it, but in the next line it seems he never faced it. Perhaps this knock could be anything at all, as “whatever” may mean that Frost himself didn’t know what was to take place, and he simply wasn’t sure about it.

    Then the conclusion comes which can be taken as a message from Frost. Interpreting this we see that this knock that happened emptied his cage, cage being possibly his room, or his mind, or his confined situation. He then hides in the world, world being either literal, society itself, or in the rest of his mind. Alter can mean changed as in change of himself, with experience due to age, or it can be simply ageing on. Looking at it again, we can see that he was able to escape the unfortunate experience which he had, and managed to grow old. And we can link this ageing with the first stanza where he says “it went many years”, for that also means that he is an old person.

    So now we have to figure out what this knock and this lockless door could have been. Either a person or an abstract event or feeling, the knock did not open this lockless door. A lockless door means that the door cannot be secured shut but it can be closed and opened. Then why did the entity which knocked not simply come in? Or perhaps this door was opened in the first place, and the entity which knocked did not want to come in.

  16. Will L. says:

    This poem is very interesting in the way it can move you and make you draw upon different conclusions every time you read it. After reading the poem many times I am still unsure as to what the poem really means as the poem is quite ambiguous. My general understanding of the poem is that the character in the poem is hiding from something that he has been hiding from for many years as in the poem “It went many years”. “But at last came a knock” is suggesting that whatever the character was hiding from has finally come back to haunt him. The second stanza suggests that the character is afraid of this thing he has been hiding from that is at the door so he “blew out the light and tip-toed the floor”. “And raised both hands in prayer to the door” means that the character is praying that whatever it is would just go away and leave him alone. When the knock comes again in the third stanza, the character finds a window and tries to escape from the thing at the door, but then he comes back to perhaps face his fears and meet this thing he has been hiding from. But when the knock comes again, I believe the character becomes fearful once again and so escapes to hide in the world.

  17. Andrew says:

    The Lockless Door, a Robert Frost poem, has a metaphorical meaning. Rhyming every second line in the pattern of ABCB, it gives the poem rhythm and flow. The poem also has beat that is much like an iambic pentameter. This again gives the poem a rhythm, but also sets a relaxing pace for the poem to be read. The five stanzas – each with four lines – depict an image of someone who has some sort of guilt or something to fear. The first stanza reveals the past guilt has resurfaced after “many years” of waiting and hiding. The knock on the door is like the beating of his conscience. The door with no lock signifies that his guilt cannot be forgotten and it will come back to haunt him. In the second stanza, when he blows out the light and tiptoes the floor, it shows that he does not want to reveal his presence. When he prays to the door, he is begging that his guilty conscience will just leave him alone. When the knock comes again in the third stanza, he realises that his guilt will not leave and seeks a way to escape. He finds that a “window” is his only means of escape and goes upon that path. However, in the forth stanza, he is uncertain of whether the path he has chosen is the right one. He knows he will have to face his conscience one day and “bade [his conscience] a ‘Come in’”. However, he is still outside the window and is unsure if he should face it or flee from it. The fifth and final stanza does not provide a definite conclusion for this poem. I believe that he has fled from his conscience once again “to hide in the world”. He “emptied his cage” which shows that he has left his refuge. However, it could also give the alternative meaning. He may have gone back in and faced his conscience and emptied his cage of guilt. He then hides “in the world and alter with age”, becoming like everyone else, his guilt becoming a thing of the past.

  18. Arjun.V says:

    This poem is very powerful, that affects you immediately after reading. I decided only to read a few responses and compare them to my own response, as they influence your own opinion into something that isn’t your own. The Lockless door definitely follows a being that has a deep fear, which is possibly related to a past guilt that has affected him greatly over the years. This can be demonstrated by systematically looking through the poem. The first stanza could be seen as referring to a recollection (and almost paranoia) of the past guilt, with the knocking at the door representing the beating of his conscience. The Door commented in the first stanza, having no “lock to lock” is the door to the guilt and fear created by the past and that can never be “locked out”.
    The second stanza goes into how the narrator feels about the sudden recurrence of guilt (and possibly remorse). It tells us of how the narrator tries to “hide” from the knock at the door (his impending guilt) and prays that it goes away. The Third stanza continues on, to tell us that the guilt cannot disappear with a few wishes and prayers, and that the narrator believes his only escape is through the “window”, which could be seen as an escape from one’s current life and lifestyle, and descends to the ground outside. The Fourth stanza tells of how the narrator decides to, after leaving their current situation, to face the past guilt and fear to try and absolve themselves.
    Finally, the fourth stanza can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Firstly, one could interpret that the narrator tries and escapes from his guilt by running away from their problem, thus “emptying the cage…(and) altering with age”. Secondly, it could be interpreted that after the narrator asks the thing at the door, to “come in”, he faces the fear and guilt and is able to join the rest of the world as an equal; i.e. hiding in the world, and altering with age as well all do through life.
    I personally believe that whatever has been met has been dealt with. Therefore, the meaning of the words “So at a knock, I emptied my cage” could be interpreted as; “all it took was a knock (wake up call) to allow the narrator to empty their life/living (cage) of guilt”. The words following “To hide in the world and alter with age” could have the meaning of the narrator returning to the general world, and altering with age as everyone else does.

  19. Danny says:

    This poem seems to be metaphor for someone’s thoughts, feelings or fears. The lockless door is the representation of those feelings because no one can lock out fear or guilt.
    The knock represents a a feeling or thought. (such as fear)
    The line “In prayer to the door” could mean that the person in the poem is begging the knock to go away.
    The open window is a chance to escape from the thoughts.
    The emptying of the cage seems to suggest the person ran away from their fears rather than embraced it.

    Another thought i had on the poem was:
    The lockless door is death, you cant escape from death and hence cannot lock it away.
    “It went many years” This line could suggest the person has lived many years,”But at last came a knock” could suggest the person is ready to die. The prayer line could mean the person is asking not to die and the window is a chance of escape.
    “I bade a “come in” could represent the person’s doubt about dying. but in the next line the knock is still there. So i belived the person ran away and “alter with age” (grow older perhaps?)

    p.s Assume the subject of the poem is a person.

  20. Giang says:

    The Lockless Door is basically about the speaker’s personal fear of society. The door having no lock implies certain vulnerability. Society is urging him to come out. The way I see it, as in the first stanza, Frost had been in the house, the cage, maybe for sometime. Perhaps he was lonely and had been waiting for someone or something as company. In many ways, the poem seemed to be telling me that it is about a person who has been isolated for so long that he feared what is outside, the reality of life, so he tends to stay in his house, the cage where everything is under his control. When the knock came, it could be his inner self trying to wake him up. After crawling through the window, the speaker has come out, but is still somewhat safe. The end of the poem states that the speaker has actually entered the surrounding society. The irony in this is that, even though he has emerged from this smaller “cage”, he has only entered a larger one, one in which he will now hide in until he becomes more comfortable.

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