In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost presents a look at the choices a person has in his or her life, how he or she may arrive to a conclusion, and how that conclusion will affect life in the future whether it be in a small, indirect way or rather in a more extraordinary direction. Throughout the years, this poem has transcended through time and is continually having an impact on people today. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” though frequently misinterpreted, expresses the weight and importance of decision-making through his use of metaphors, specific tone, and arduous conflict.
Frost’s frequent use of metaphors accentuates the dilemmas in his life and easily relates to dilemmas in the lives of his readers. People will very often relate well with this poem when they imagine and evaluate the meaning of “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both” because it allows them to recall a time in their lives when, like Frost, they were forced to make a decision between two perfectly, good and desirable options (Frost line 1-2).
However, many people misunderstand the “roads” in this poem as being two completely, opposite paths. They consider one to be the more blissful and easier road to travel, then believe the other to be more difficult and dangerous when that is simply not the case. Frost states, “Because it was grassy and wanted wear / Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same” (line 8-10).
This statement is misunderstood and overlooked commonly, because people rarely see their options as being “about the same” (Frost line 10). In some instances, perhaps they are not, but a couple of questions people oftentimes forget to ask themselves is, “In what ways are these opportunities similar? Would they ultimately have the same outcome in that they both would provide happiness, despite what it would take to obtain it?”
People will always want to look for the easiest road rather than the more strenuous while in their pursuit for happiness, which is what this poem is believed to construe. However, Frost depicts that both of these roads were nearly identical, therefore making the decision that much more difficult to attain. This poem is often misinterpreted as having an inspiring and uplifting tone; however, when read accurately, the depression and sorrow Frost intended can be identified undoubtedly. Frost communicates to his readers through his tone, not the usual, generic meaning that his readers so often deem to be true, but rather the grief that he experienced when contemplating his decision. For instance, when listening to the tone of these particular lines, “And be[ing] one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one [road] as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth,” the reader should be able to understand and relate to the remorse of not being able to choose both paths as well as the anxiety of not knowing where each road will lead him or her if taken (Frost line 3-5).
The poem is called “The Road Not Taken” for a reason; it shows the regret and remorse directly within the title. Frost conveys later within the poem a certain dread that a great amount of people would most likely undergo if they were placed in this situation by stating, “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence” (line 16-17). These specific lines reveal to Frost’s readers the dread he feels when looking ahead to his future and also the regret he believes he could feel whilst wondering how different his life could be if he decides to choose a different road. However, when analyzing the poem, it could be argued that such emotion was not acknowledged by Frost until he came upon his old age. Frost’s tone in this poem helps translate the emotions that he and so many others would feel when placed in this position, and also encourages his readers to think critically about which choice they would ultimately make.
Though “The Road Not Taken” contributes many distinguishing factors, perhaps the most important of these is the crucial conflict that Frost has with himself as he decides which path he is going to take. “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back” refers to the inevitability and conflict that occurs when making a simple yet life-changing decision (Frost line 14-15). This poem is not about choosing the “right” or “wrong” road, because Frost makes it clear that there really is none. He makes the point that despite what may happen farther down the road or where the road may take him, a decision has to be made otherwise he would continue standing there, staring down that fork in the road. That simple truth is inevitable. He knew that he would more than likely never get the opportunity to come back and find out exactly where the other road would lead him, and that is simply a consequence of the decisions life expects.
However, that feeling of regret and second-guessing himself, as mentioned earlier, does occur near the end of Frost’s life, as it would in the life of anyone who has ever been torn between such circumstances. Furthermore, near the end of their lives when they are looking back on the small yet crucial decisions that could have both lead and shaped them, they would like to believe that they had made the better decision in taking that specific road much like Frost had hoped, though neither road was the lesser. Thus, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I— / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference” is perhaps the most misinterpreted line of “The Road Not Taken” (Frost line 18-20). It is understood to be a quote of encouragement — a way of saying that by having courage and taking the more difficult road will ultimately make for a better person and a more fulfilling life. This statement may be true, but not what Frost had intended his poem to mean.
The aforementioned quote sums up the meaning that Frost so astutely portrayed: the grief that occurs throughout life is not necessarily because of the wrong decisions being made, but the moments that require decisions in general. These decisions represent the passing of a long and laborious life, which regardless, should be thought of proudly “for it has made all the difference” (Frost line 20). Frost articulately weaves together an arduous conflict through the use of his metaphors and tone that he takes throughout the poem.
This poem delivers a remarkable yet infrequently conceived concept. Frost expressed through “The Road Not Taken” just how important some of the smallest, seemingly-insignificant decisions a person will make throughout the course of life can have a tremendous impact on who he or she becomes and how his or her life will ultimately progress from it. This poem illustrates that regardless of the grief or regret that may come, there will always be a decision that has to be made, and it is the responsibility of the person involved to make the most of the decision he or she ultimately chooses.
Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Twelfth edition. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Pearson Longman, 2013. 899.
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