Robert Frost’s – “The Road Not Taken”

Following along the same theme as the last post, I would like to present a very famous poem as well as a discussion of the intent of the poet in writing the piece.  This poem is one of Robert Frost’s most famous works.  It has been studied by experts since it was first published in 1920.

The analysis after the poem is an excerpt from my upcoming book.

 

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost, 1920)

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;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

This famous and beautifully written poem by Frost is not what it seems.  One would think that it is inspirational in its suggestion that selecting the road less traveled is the path to happiness.  However, upon closer reading, the traveler in this poem sees two roads that diverge into the woods and both roads look identical in wear.  In addition, the traveler mentions that, “with a sigh,” he/she will recall in the future the “one less traveled by” was chosen at the fork in the road. 

This poem is one of disappointment by the traveler at not being offered the opportunity to see the less traveled path.  The traveler knows that selecting the less traveled path will “make all the difference” and is necessary if happiness is to be achieved.  Unfortunately for this traveler, such a less traveled path is never encountered.

The fork in the road of this poem is not that exceptional; it is just one of many everyday decisions that all of us make in our lives.  No call to adventure was ever given or, if it was given, the traveler never recognized it.  The traveler simply remains in the everyday world without the opportunity for adventure.  The traveler knows this to be his fate and realizes that in the future he will sigh with disappointment at not being given the opportunity for a more complete life.  Vividly represented is the resignation to the future of an everyday existence.

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