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'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost

'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost is a well-known poem about the journey of
life. This lesson will cover a brief summary of the poem, analyze its major theme,
and test your knowledge with a quick quiz.
Poem Summary
Have you ever found yourself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to
make a difficult decision? Maybe you've had to choose between two equally
desirable things, like following a career path to become an astronaut or a doctor.
You may have considered the different paths of study or activity each choice would
lead you down. We've all been faced with challenging decisions in our lives, and
sometimes the difficulty of making those decisions arises from the fear of not
knowing if what we choose is right, or what will happen as a result of our choice.
Well, the famous American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote a poem that describes
this feeling exactly. 'The Road Not Taken', first published in 1916, is perhaps

Frost's most famous poem. The final lines in particular, 'Two roads diverged in a
yellow wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the
difference', are often quoted and referred to as inspirational words that challenge us
to overcome obstacles in life.
The poem describes someone standing at a fork, or turning point, in a road in the
woods, trying to decide which path he's going to take. He looks down one road as
far as he can see, and after thinking for another minute, decides to take the other
one because it looks like nobody's been that way yet, and he's curious about where
it leads.
He thinks maybe he might come back another day and try out the other path but
has a feeling that the road he's chosen will lead him to new places and discoveries,
and he probably won't be back. He thinks wistfully about that road, the road not
taken, and where he might have wound up if he'd gone that way instead. Part of
him regrets his decision, but he also realizes that the things he's seen and the places
he's gone because of the direction he chose has made him who he is.
The Poem's Theme
'The Road Not Taken' is more than a poem about someone trying to decide which
road he's going to take on a stroll through the woods. It's actually a poem about the
journey of life. The two roads diverged in a yellow wood symbolize a person's
life. The narrator's choice about which road to take represents the different
decisions we sometimes have to make and how those decisions will affect the
future. Think of the expression, 'down the road', that we often use to describe
something that might happen months or even years from now, and you'll see how
Frost is making the connection between life and traveling.

Frost captures the uncertainty about making decisions and our natural desire to
know what will happen as a result of the decisions we make in the first stanza of
the poem:
'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth'
Here, Frost uses the bend in the road as a metaphor for what the narrator wishes he
could see but ultimately can't make out in the undergrowth. The narrator eventually
decides to take the other road because it really doesn't matter; whichever path he
chooses, he has no way of knowing where he's going to end up.
The only difference between the two roads is that the one the narrator chooses in
the second stanza is 'grassy and wanted wear'; in other words, it doesn't look like
anyone's taken it before or in a long time. At this point in the poem, Frost tries to
encourage readers to overcome the fear of the unknown: someone has to be the
first person to try a new thing. Just think about what has happened when men and
women have boldly gone where no men and women have gone before. Without
that kind of determination, Christopher Columbus wouldn't have 'discovered'
America, and Neil Armstrong wouldn't have walked on the moon.

The first significant thing about The Road Not Taken is its title, which
presumably refers to an unexercised option, something about which the speaker

can only speculate. The traveler comes to a fork in a road through a yellow wood
and wishes he could somehow manage to travel both routes; he rejects that
aspiration as impractical, however, at least for the day at hand. The road he selects
is the one less traveled by, suggesting the decision of an individualist, someone
little inclined to follow the crowd. Almost immediately, however, he seems to
contradict his own judgment: Though as for that the passing there/ Had worn
them really about the same. The poet appears to imply that the decision is based
on evidence that is, or comes close to being, an illusion.
The contradictions continue. He decides to save the first, (perhaps) more traveled
route for another day but then confesses that he does not think it probable that he
will return, implying that this seemingly casual and inconsequential choice is really
likely to be crucialone of the choices of life that involve commitment or lead to
the necessity of other choices that will divert the traveler forever from the original
stopping place. In the final stanza, the traveler says that he will be telling this with
a sigh, which may connote regret. His choice, in any event, has made all the
difference. The tone of this stanza, coupled with the title, strongly suggests that
the traveler, if not regretting his choice, at least laments the possibilities that the
need to make a choice leave unfulfilled.
Has Frost in mind a particular and irrevocable choice of his own, and if so, what
feeling, in this poem of mixed feelings, should be regarded as dominant? There is
no way of identifying such a specific decision from the evidence of the poem itself.
Although a prejudice exists in favor of identifying the I of the poem with the
author in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the speaker may not be Frost at
all. On more than one occasion the poet claimed that this poem was about his
friend Edward Thomas, a man inclined to indecisiveness out of a strongand, as
Frost thought, amusinghabit of dwelling on the irrevocability of decisions. If so,
the reference in the poems final stanza to telling of the experience with a sigh/
Somewhere ages and ages hence might be read not only as the boast of Robert
Frost, who tells it as long as people read the poem, but also as a perpetual
revelation of Thomas, also a fine poet.
What is clear is that the speaker is, at least, a person like Thomas in some respects
(though there may well be some of Frost in him also). Critics of this poem are
likely always to argue whether it is an affirmation of the crucial nature of the
choices people must make on the road of life or a gentle satire on the sort of

temperament that always insists on struggling with such choices. The extent of the
poets sympathy with the traveler also remains an open question.
Frost composed this poem in four five-line stanzas with only two end rhymes in
each stanza (abaab). The flexible iambic meter has four strong beats to the line. Of
the technical achievements in The Road Not Taken, one in particular shows
Frosts skill at enforcing meaning through form. The poem ends:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one less traveled by, and that has
made all the difference.
The indecision of the speakerhis divided state of mindis heightened by the
repetition of I, split by the line division and emphasized by the rhyme and pause.
It is an effect possible only in a rhymed and metrical poemand thus a good
argument for the continuing viability of traditional forms.