The Road Not Taken


The Road Not Taken Essay, Research Paper

In life, each and every one of us is on a journey to our own destination. Every where that we go we will have to make decisions that will lead us to many different choices, and ultimately will determine our fate. There are many paths that can be taken in the road of life, and it is up to us to make sure we take the right one(s). No matter what Robert Frost intended to convey to the reader in “The Road Not Taken,” this poem has many different meanings. It all depends on how we analyze it, but no matter what you get from reading this poem, the main concept it demonstrates is that it is the road that one chooses that makes them who they are.

Throughout “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost brings together many different literary techniques to express the theme or themes of his poem. The two themes in this poem are, 1) the dilemma of making a choice, and the danger of not knowing where that decision will take you, and 2) a tale telling the reader to be different, and to take the road “less traveled.” “And sorry I could not travel both…” [line 2] It is always hard to make important decisions because you are always going to wonder what might have happened if… The speaker has no way of knowing what awaits him at either of the destinations, but he still must choose between the two paths.

The most common literary technique in “The Road Not Taken” is symbolism. The whole poem is very symbolic because the speaker reflects on the decision that he has to make, and the consequences of that decision. The choice that he has to make is not just which road should he walk down, because that would be insignificant. The choice he has to make will affect the rest of his life and determine his fate. It shows us how each and every choice we make effects our lives in ways that we will never know. Once you make a decision to do something, there is no turning back and you will never know what might have happened if you took that other road. In the first stanza of the poem the speaker must choose between two paths that diverge in a yellow dark wood. “In Frost’s poems, woods often symbolize the world in which we live. The dark woods represent the privacy of the self, the sacred domain where poetry is made.” (Contemporary Literary Criticism) The first of the two paths is the more common route compared to the other path which was “less traveled.” Frost presents us with a challenge that we all face in our daily lives, taking the easy way out. If you choose the easy, more traveled route, because the out come is more predictable than if you take the more challenging way. Many of us tend to choose the more traveled path because we know exactly what is going to come of it. People, in general like to stay in their comfort zone, and that is doing what you know, and taking the more challenging way is too threatening or difficult for an average person to do. “Doubted if I should ever come back” [line 15]. This is the persona thinking about how he will never be able to come back knowing that what he chooses now will effect every other choice he makes from now on.

Imagery is another characteristic of Robert Frost’s poem. “In several of Frost’s poems, the imagery of woods, trees, and leaves is so intimately and persistently identified with certain psychological states as to assume a symbolic significance.” (Contemporary Literary Criticism) “And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black,” [line 11]. The leaves were all covering the ground, and since the time that they fell no person had walked on that road. This means that each time a person has to make a choice it is new to them, and they tend to feel that no one else has been there either. In this poem imagery suggests that the speaker must choose between two unknown paths that have unfamiliar destinations.

Frost structures this poem in a straightforward, concrete, and strong way. This helps the reader to interpret the theme or themes easily. Internally the structure is focused around the predicament of choosing the right path, and the thoughts that go through the persona’s mind during this decision. The poem moves chronologically from the introduction of the choices to the final decision. The external form is split into four stanzas containing five lines in each. Frost organizes each stanza by a common rhyme scheme. The rhyme pattern Frost uses is: A,B,A,A,B?C,D,C,C,D etc. The accumulation of this pattern allows the reader to hear variations in the speaker’s tone. One could hear the tone change from puzzled, to calm, to meditated through out the four stanzas.

“Then took the other, just as fair/ And having perhaps the better claim,” [lines 6/7]. What made it have the better claim is that it was grassy and didn’t have many tracks of people walking on it. The path with fewer tracks was not meant for everyone because most of the other people took the easier path. The fact that the speaker took the road “less traveled” over the more popular route shows what type of person he is. The one who chooses this path is more inclined to make a difference in the world. They are more daring, adventurous, and proud, and don’t need to follow the crowd. This person knows what they want in life and they know that following the crowd will get them no- where. People need to believe in themselves and stand up for what they believe in. We are all individual and unique in our own special ways, and we all have the power to make good decisions and be in control of our lives and our fate.

At the end of the poem, the speaker realizes that at the end of his life, “somewhere ages and ages hence,” [line 17] he will have regrets about not going back and traveling the road he did not take. Although he has these feelings, he stays proud of the decisions that he made and the path that he took, because they made him the person that he is today. “I took the road less traveled by and that made the difference,” [lines 19/20]. This shows that to him the most important thing was that he did what he felt was right, which was taking the “road less traveled.”

There are many ways to interpret this poem and find equal and significant meanings. Robert Frost may have wanted readers to understand it differently, but come up with the same conclusions, or he may have just wanted every one to have a common understanding. No matter how you understand this poem, I believe Frost wanted every reader to understand that the choices one makes in life will effect them for the rest of their lives, and there is no way to know which road you should take. In conclusion, Frost made a great contribution to poetry with this piece. This poem will bring about a more conscience decision making process for everyone who reads it for generations to come.

-”Do not follow where the path may lead… Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Robert Frost)


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