Robert Frost ever timeless poem “The Road Not Taken” has spanned all time because of its ability to appeal to the basic and inevitable necessities of adulthood –making tough decisions and living with the consequences of said choices in the quest for happiness.
Robert Frost used the symbol of two roads to show a young man’s need to make a very difficult decision. In breaking the poem down in terms of reading and re-reading the poem in its entirety, one can’t help but be immediately placed in the shoes of the speaker in terms of one’s own life choices.
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The poem begins with th speaker standing in the middle of two roads. The imagery used in the poem “diverged in a yellow wood” (Frost, 1916), leads the reader to believe the poem takes place in the fall probably when the leaves are turning yellow. He then proceeds to say that he wishes that he could travel both roads, but of course that is physically impossible.
He stands for a long time trying to decide which road to take. He looks down the path in attempt to see where it leads. This is so symbolic of one’s own “paths”. No one of course can see the outcome of the impending choices that we make or are about to make.
In the next stanza, he chooses a path that he wishes to take. “Then I took the other, as just as fair, Because it was grassy and wanted wear,” (Frost, 1916). Breaking down the story, both the author and thereby the speaker would have the reader believe that the two roads, in terms of their appearance, are both equally pleasing to the eye. But in the line, “as just as fair” (Frost, 1916), he wants the reader to believe that the two roads and thereby the two choices are different, but could be equally just as good.
The speaker is still unsure as to which path he really wants to take. He describes the path as being “perhaps” better. Nevertheless, it looks as though it hasn’t been used as often as the other. Frost used the alliteration, “wanted wear”. This actually meant that it lacked used.
The speaker becomes incredibly indecisive. Just when the reader thinks that the speaker has made a decision, he says again how the roads are almost the same. The phrase “the passing there” (Frost, 1916) meaning traffic, could mean people who are walking like him.
We then get a glimpse into the time of day in which this decision making is taking place in the line “And both that morning equally lay, In leaves no step had trodden black” (Frost ,1916), and also that in the area in which he stood, the leaves that have fallen, have not been stepped on and thereby had not changed color on the ground.
The speaker seems to poke fun at his need to make this decision with the line “Oh! I kept the first for another day” (Frost ,1916) He says that he will go back to the road that he is seemingly choosing not to take, another day. Here is another example of how this poem has transcended time. One always thinks or hopes that the choices that we make can somehow be undone. The notion that once we get to a certain point, if we for some reason do not like the way that things are going, the road that we are taking if you will, that we can always turn around and go back if our initial decision has failed. Then he seems to say just that in the line” Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back”(Frost, 1916). He realizes that the idea of coming back to this initial spot, is ridiculous. One never knows how one decision can lead to another and another and yet another leading us so far away from the first decision, that we would not be able to see from whence we began and essentially not being able to go back.
The speaker moves forward in time; many years from the primary decision. This allows the reader to infer that the choice that the speaker is making or has already made, is one of great import, one that could possibly impact him so much that he will be talking about it for years to come. When the speaker says “ I shall be telling this with a sigh, Eleanor Sickels is quoted to say that “the poem is about the human tendency to wobble illogically in decision and later to assume that the decision was, after all, logical and enormously important, but forever to tell of it ‘with a sigh’ as depriving the speaker of who-knows-what interesting experience.” (www.wikipedia.org. October 2011)
As we reach the conclusion of the poem, the speaker repeats the first line of the poem, and now we know which path he chose “and I—Took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” (Frost, 1916). The speaker has made the decision to take the road that few others have taken, one that could either positively or negatively impact his life forever. The conclusion of the poem does not however tell us whether or not the speaker was a failure or a success. It could possibly depend on whether the reader is a pessimist or an optimist.
The theme of this story is choices. Frost uses symbolism and imagery to paint a perfect picture of how one generally makes decisions. In the beginning of the poem we are placed in a glowing yellow wooded area in the early morning along with a young man, forced to make a decision that will change him forever. Wow! The power of the pen! The power to automatically be beamed into a situation that is so reminiscent of our own struggle, is one that has been mastered time and time again, yet this poem probably has more meaning today than it did in 1916 when it was written. So many in the U.S., due to lack of money, experience, or drive, have been forced to make decisions that have left many only one paycheck away from homelessness.
Did Mr Frost know at the time how much of an impact this poem would have on the world? Did he know that after almost one-hundred (100) years that he would be written about in terms of great literature? One can only hope that, with all of his many works, Mr. Frost knew that his poems and short stories would solidify his place in English literature forever.
“The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost 1916 Bridgepoint Education 2010
Journey Into Literature R. Wayne Clugston