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Symbol Analysis

The night is everywhere in this poem, almost like a character. Every section happens at night, but as things move along, the feeling of the nighttime and the darkness changes to match the shifting mood. At the same time, we think there's always something a little spooky about the dark, and even when everything else is going well, the night is kind of an ominous presence in the poem.

  • Line 5: This first mention of the night comes in the happy opening section with its jingling silver bells. Everything seems to be going fine, and we imagine the "icy air of night" being sort of crisp, refreshing, and pleasant while out riding in a sleigh. Still, there's something just a little sinister in that phrase, too, isn't there?
  • Line 18: Now the night air has mellowed out a little. Instead of being "icy," the air in the second section is described as "balmy." That just means warm, mild, and comfortable. We imagine something like a summer evening after a cookout, with marshmallows roasting and fireflies glowing.
  • Line 39: In the third section when the fire alarms go off, the night has gotten a little bit scarier. Notice how, in this line, the speaker treats the night like a character in the poem. He makes a reference to night having a "startled ear." This is a good example of personification, where the speaker gives human qualities to a thing (night) that usually wouldn't have them.
  • Line 73: In the last section, the night has become horribly, chillingly "silent." All of the fun and harmony and noise are gone. It's like the air has been sucked out of the poem, and we're left alone with nothing but our thoughts and the slow, awful tolling of the iron bells. Spooky, huh?

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