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The Choices We Must Make Essay

“The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost both portray situations where a choice must be made. In both poems the narrator is in a predicament and must make a choice of which path to follow in life. Frost uses symbolism of a road to illustrate the fact that man will never know what could have been or what opportunities were lost with the choice that was made. In “The Road not Taken” the speaker comes across a fork in the road. Each path is a metaphor for a choice in life.

He feels strongly that whatever road he takes will be for good and he must choose wisely in order to come up with the best choice so he does not end up regretting it yet the poems hint at the inevitable regret that follows choice. “Frost calls attention only to the role of human choice. A second target was the notion that “whatever choice we make, we make at our peril. ”(Montiero 11) After giving it proper thought the speaker chooses to follow the road “less traveled. ”(Frost 19) “Then one notices how insistent the speaker is on admitting, at the time of his choice, that the two roads were in appearance “really about the same.

”(Pritchard 9) “The Road not Taken” signifies a difficult choice in a person’s life that could offer the easy or hard way out. There is no assurance to what the path you chose to take leads, but as people, we have to take risks and choose because deciding is the first step of either heading into success or failure in life. At the end of the poem, the speaker says, “that has made all the difference,” which demonstrates that if we choose the more difficult “road” we might receive what we sought after.

(Frost 20) “A poem rather which announced itself to be ‘about’ important issues in life: about the nature of choice, of decision, of how to go in one direction rather than another and how to feel about the direction you took and didn’t take. ”(Pritchard 4) It is about how the choice came about and what your attitude toward the outcome was. By deciding to travel the harder path, the speaker strays away from the popular opinion as represented by the other road. The poem’s importance lies in the decision made by the speaker, and the act of choosing the harder path represents that he is always moving forward; never stopping.

Like “The Road not Taken,” in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” the speaker is faced with a big life decision. He must choose between isolation and obligation. “But it is only by setting out, by working our way well into the wood, that we begin to understand the meaning of the choices we make and the character of the self that is making them; in fact, only then can we properly understand our actions as choices. ” (Richardson 2) This poem might suggest that stopping in the woods on a snowy evening would allow the speaker to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

When the speaker reaches the woods, he finds a world offering perfect, quiet isolation existing side by side with another world, a world of people and obligations. The speaker wrestles with his choice: he considers whether he should stay in the woods or not. “His house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here to watch the woods fill up with snow. ” (Frost 2) The speaker understands that his house and obligations are located in the village and he knows he must attend to his obligations; so no one will see him stopping in the woods to watch them fill up with snow. His horse is his connection to civilization and life.

When the horse shakes its bells it is signaling that the speaker should return to the city. “Having paid tribute to the dangerous seductiveness of the woods, the narrator seems to be trying to shake himself back into commonsense reality by invoking his ‘promises’ or mundane responsibilities. ” (Gray 3) The speaker has promises to keep, and must connect to life and decides to journey on. The social responsibility proves stronger than that of the isolated woods. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” both portray weighing of difficult choices in life.

We are presented with many choices throughout our lives. Making choices is a vital part of life. Choices help us move forward and grow. If we were allowed to go back and see what would have happened if we made a different choice, we could be overjoyed or be filled with sorrow about the choices we have made. We all have the desire to go back and see what might have been. Like Frost, in “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” we can only see a little way down the road and there will be surprises with the choices that are made, but that is what makes life interesting.

Frost seems to have used his poems to teasingly poke fun at his dear friend Edward Thomas, who during their daily walks, would discuss the regrets about the decisions he did or did not make in his daily life: It has been documented that “the ironic impulse that produced the poem as Frost’s ‘gently teasing’ response to his good friend, Edward Thomas, who would in their walks together take Frost down one path and then regret not having taken a better direction. ” ( Kearns 1) Once a decision is made, it cannot be changed even if you regret making it.

When faced with choices about what path to take in life, there are advantages and regrets to all choices. “This poem tells a different tale: that our life-shaping choices are irrational, that we are fundamentally out of control. ” (Lentricchia 5) The narrator in “The Road Not Taken” tells this poem with a sigh. The meaning of the word “sigh” in this quote suggests the regret of the narrator. The title of the poem also suggests Frost regrets his decision in not taking the other road.

The narrator looks back at making the choice in front of the diverged roads and wondered about the road not taken, making one believe he might have chosen the one not taken if he had another chance. The poem’s last line is perhaps the most ambiguous: “Difference” has a meaning of change. Difference is ambiguous in the fact that we are not sure how the outcome affected the speaker, in a positive or negative way. In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” the narrator seeks a life without pain and struggle, so he has to make a choice that reflects his responsibilities.

The peaceful and tranquil woods entrance the speaker enough to make him want to ignore his responsibilities and stay to watch the woods fill with snow. With every choice we make, we must contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of each option before finalizing our choice. The risk of making a choice sometimes is the difference between success and failure. In the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” the narrator seems to be young and can take a risk in the path of life. There is no assurance of what lies ahead; so he has to take a risk in about which way to choose because this is the first step of heading into success or failure in life.

“The poem does raise questions about whether there is any justice in the outcome of one’s choices. ” (Faggen 5) In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the narrator refers to his life obligations. He has to make the choice to fulfill his obligations or desires. The narrator might be insinuating that if he takes a risk that could offer him the perfect solitude and escape, he would fail to fulfill his current obligations. He stops by the wood on the “darkest evening of the year” to watch them “fill up with snow,” and remains there until his horse reminds him of the “promises” he has to keep and the miles he still has to travel.

The narrator represents so many people in life. Those people who are able to forget the financial or social obligations of life, and can take a risk in their choices. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” provide difficult choices we must make throughout life. The poet articulates the pain of having to make tough choices in the road of life. Sometimes people regret the lost possibilities of the road not chosen, and sometimes people regret the choices they did make. Every choice that is made throughout life has a different outcome.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” have very different outcomes due to the choices made by the narrator. Every choice includes a consequence, either good or bad. In “The Road Not Taken,” Frost examines the consequential relationship between a decision which is made and the resultant effect that it has on the future of an individual. The closing lines of the work depict this consequential relationship where the narrator chooses the road “less traveled by” and, as a result, it “made all the difference”.

This signifies the road that was chosen to be travelled affected the narrator’s future either negatively or positively. It is not clearly stated whether the choice he made was positive or negative but it does state that he is “telling this with a sigh. ” A sigh is usually not used when describing something positive, which, in turn creates the question: was the outcome of the choice he made negative and does he regret making that choice? “‘The Road Not Taken’ is an ironic commentary on the autonomy of choice in a world governed by instincts, unpredictable contingencies, and limited possibilities.

” (Faggen 1) The speaker believes he is making a choice when he selects to take the “road less travelled” when in fact, decisions are often influenced by other forces. Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” demonstrates that not all choices result in a negative outcome. In the poem, the narrator wants to stay in the forest and watch it “fill up with snow” even though he has obligations. “The theme of “Stopping by Woods”—despite Frost’s declaimer—is the temptation of death, even suicide, symbolized by the woods that are filling up with snow on the darkest evening of the year.

” ( Meyers 2) He has to make a choice that will either benefit him at that moment or in the future. When he is making his decision, his horse represents his link to the real world. When his horse jingles its bells, it is his warning that he must return to the real world because he has obligations to fulfill. Against what he really wants to do, the narrator decides to continue into town to fulfill his obligations. It is never clearly stated how his decision affected him, but unlike “The Road Not Taken,” since his choice is not selfishly made, the outcome was probably positive.

Some people are so afraid of the outcome of choices that they try to stay away from decision making. What they do not realize is that by deciding to forgo making choices, they are actually making a choice not to make choices which it is a choice in itself. Every choice that is made has an outcome, and there is no stopping their progression. Perhaps Frost wishes to draw attention to the choices we did not make in order to recognize the preciousness of each passing moment. “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost both portray situations where a choice must be made.

Without making choices our lives become stagnant. In both poems the narrator is in a predicament and must make a choice of which path to follow in life. The roads that the narrators must choose from represent the fact that man will never know what could have been or what opportunities were lost with the choice that was made. Works Cited 1. Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken. ” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 2003. 2. Frost, Robert. “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. ” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 2003. 3. The UP of Kentucky. Frost and the New England Renaissance.

Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Copyright © 1988 4. Lentricchia, Frank. Modernist Quartet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 71-74. 5. Longman Group UK Limited. American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. Copyright © 1990 6. Meyers, Jeffrey. Robert Frost: A Biography. Copyright © 1996 7. The University of Michigan. Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin. Copyright © 1997 8. Pritchard, William. A Literary Life Reconsidered. Copyright © 1984 9. “From Woods to Stars: A Pattern of Imagery in Robert Frost’s Poetry. ” South Atlantic Quarterly. Winter 1959.


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