The poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost addresses the idea of decision-making and choosing what direction life will take you. The poem is about the speaker arriving at a fork in the road, where both paths are carpeted with leaves. The persona, who is believed to be Frost himself, chooses to take the road less traveled by. He tells himself that he will take the other road another day, although he knows it is unlikely that he will have the opportunity to do so. The poem concludes with the speaker satisfied by his choice in taking the road less traveled by.
The poem consists of four stanzas, each containing five lines. The rhyme rigid scheme is ABAAB. Then, in the last line the rhyme is broken with the word “difference” making the ending stand out from the rest of the poem. Each line contains four stressed syllables. Frost uses a metaphor comparing the road to life, and the fork to making decisions.
The first stanza conveys a mood of change and introduces the idea of a life altering decision, which is the basis for the poem. First Frost sets the scene with his opening words, “Two roads diverged…” (line 1). The speaker is standing at a junction in the road pondering two choices. The roads in the poem are merged where the speaker is standing but lead in two different directions signifying two different paths in life. Frost begins with the metaphorical meaning as early as the first line with his reference to “…yellow wood” (line 1). This suggests that the setting is in the forest during Fall, which is the season of change. The second line, “…sorry I could not have traveled both” (line 2) expresses the curiosity to explore several possibilities in life. It also forms a sense of regret at not knowing what could lie ahead on the un-chosen path and the speaker’s limitation to one lifetime. When Frost says, “And be one traveler…” (line 3) it is obvious that speaker can not travel down both paths. He realizes that he needs to make a choice and pick one path over the other. The speaker’s procrastination and the difficulty in predicting the outcome of the decision he needs to make is shown when he, “…stood And looked down one as far as I could” (line3-4). Both roads lead to the unknown, “To where it bent in the undergrowth” (line 5), as do many choices in life. This is a metaphor to our inability to predict the future, and the fact that regardless what road is chosen it will not be free of obstacles.
In the second stanza the persona continues to examine both paths and ponder which road to take. In line six Frost uses the phrase, “…just as fair” (line 6), to imply that his decision needs careful consideration because once it is made, there is no turning back. Once again, Frost points to uncertainty in the future by using the word “…perhaps…” in line seven. The speaker is judging the road from where he is standing. Frost then goes on to describe the path as “…grassy and wanted wear” (line 8). From this line, the reader gets the impression that the persona took the road less traveled by to break away from the influence and control of society. But by making the metaphor a road Frost makes it clear that few have chosen to take the harder route through life because it is less trodden upon. Although the roads have little difference in appearance since they are “worn … about the same” (line 10), they both lead to undeterminable futures. By the end of the second stanza, the speaker still has not made a choice about which path to take.
The third stanza makes it clear that every time a choice presents itself there is a new journey or path to be traveled. This is shown in lines eleven and twelve when Frost says, “And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black” (line 11-12). Then, with the use of, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” (line 13), the speaker repeats his hesitation and regret for not being able to travel down both paths from line two. The speaker acknowledges that his decision in this passing moment will have to be permanent by saying, “…way leads on to way, I doubted if I ever should come back” (line 14-15). Once a decision is made, the speaker won’t get the chance to retrace his steps and travel down the road not taken. He is basically saying that what road or choice is picked now will affect his life just as much as what can not be undone.
At the end of the poem, the speaker finally makes his decision and embraces it. In the last stanza, Frost confuses the reader with a “…sigh…” (line 16) that is open to interpretation. One can wonder if the sigh is out of relief, regret, frustration, or contentment. He creates a sense of nostalgia in line 17 when he says that he will be telling the story for years to come. This signifies that the speaker will no longer regret the choice that he made. Frost realizes that the chosen road can make a difference in who you are and the way you live. He makes this clear in his famous line, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” (line18-20).
In the end Frost made his decision to take the road less traveled by based on his personal beliefs and consideration, without the influence of society. “The Road Not Taken” can be interpreted through the use of metaphors of regret that one’s ability to explore different life possibilities is limited. Everyone has had to make difficult decisions of which the outcome can not be foreseen. In the end we look back upon the choices that we’ve made, and like Frost, we realize our choices have made all the difference in our lives.
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