the road not taken reflection essay

The Road Not Taken Summary & Analysis by Robert Frost

  • Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis
  • Poetic Devices
  • Vocabulary & References
  • Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
  • Line-by-Line Explanations

the road not taken reflection essay

Written in 1915 in England, "The Road Not Taken" is one of Robert Frost's—and the world's—most well-known poems. Although commonly interpreted as a celebration of rugged individualism, the poem actually contains multiple different meanings. The speaker in the poem, faced with a choice between two roads, takes the road "less traveled," a decision which he or she supposes "made all the difference." However, Frost creates enough subtle ambiguity in the poem that it's unclear whether the speaker's judgment should be taken at face value, and therefore, whether the poem is about the speaker making a simple but impactful choice, or about how the speaker interprets a choice whose impact is unclear.

  • Read the full text of “The Road Not Taken”

the road not taken reflection essay

The Full Text of “The Road Not Taken”

1 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

2 And sorry I could not travel both

3 And be one traveler, long I stood

4 And looked down one as far as I could

5 To where it bent in the undergrowth;

6 Then took the other, as just as fair,

7 And having perhaps the better claim,

8 Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

9 Though as for that the passing there

10 Had worn them really about the same,

11 And both that morning equally lay

12 In leaves no step had trodden black.

13 Oh, I kept the first for another day!

14 Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

15 I doubted if I should ever come back.

16 I shall be telling this with a sigh

17 Somewhere ages and ages hence:

18 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

19 I took the one less traveled by,

20 And that has made all the difference.

“The Road Not Taken” Summary

“the road not taken” themes.

Theme Choices and Uncertainty

Choices and Uncertainty

  • See where this theme is active in the poem.

Theme Individualism and Nonconformity

Individualism and Nonconformity

Theme Making Meaning

Making Meaning

Line-by-line explanation & analysis of “the road not taken”.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler,

the road not taken reflection essay

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.

Lines 13-15

Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

Lines 16-17

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Lines 18-20

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

“The Road Not Taken” Symbols

Symbol Diverging Roads

Diverging Roads

  • See where this symbol appears in the poem.

Symbol The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

“the road not taken” poetic devices & figurative language, extended metaphor.

  • See where this poetic device appears in the poem.

“The Road Not Taken” Vocabulary

Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.

  • Yellow wood
  • Undergrowth
  • See where this vocabulary word appears in the poem.

Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme of “The Road Not Taken”

Rhyme scheme, “the road not taken” speaker, “the road not taken” setting, literary and historical context of “the road not taken”, more “the road not taken” resources, external resources.

"The Most Misread Poem in America" — An insightful article in the Paris Review, which goes into depth about some of the different ways of reading (or misreading) "The Road Not Taken."

Robert Frost reads "The Road Not Taken" — Listen to Robert Frost read the poem.

Book Review: "The Road Not Taken," by David Orr — Those looking for an even more in-depth treatment of the poem might be interested in David Orr's book, "The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong."

LitCharts on Other Poems by Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

After Apple-Picking

A Roadside Stand

Desert Places

Dust of Snow

Fire and Ice

Home Burial

Mending Wall

My November Guest

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

The Death of the Hired Man

The Oven Bird

The Sound of the Trees

The Tuft of Flowers

The Wood-Pile

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the road not taken reflection essay

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Penguin Press, 2015

Contributor Bio

Christopher spaide, more online by christopher spaide.

  • “Nihilism, Shmihilism”
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The Road Not Taken

By david orr, reviewed by christopher spaide.

For a half century, Robert Frost has been the most unavoidable of American poets: the nation’s inaugural inaugural poet, laureate of swinging birches and snowy evenings, a fixture as essential to the middle-school classroom as the chalkboard. He has also been our most defended poet: Frost’s respectable partisans, among them Lionel Trilling, Randall Jarrell, Joseph Brodsky, and Paul Muldoon, have insisted that we look more closely at the true Frost, a poet less lovely, more dark and deep, than the Frost we were taught to love. “The Other Frost” (to quote the title of a Jarrell essay) is not a populist, apparently patriotic bard, but a modernist whom you might call (depending on whose Frost you’re meeting) coy, playful, mischievous, malevolent, an unsparing skeptic (if not an atheist), or an unappeasable pessimist (if not a downright nihilist). These corrective lenses have scandalized casual readers, but they utterly delighted Frost: when, at Frost’s eighty-fifth birthday dinner, Trilling shocked guests by toasting Frost as “a terrifying poet,” Frost responded with a thank-you note: “You made my birthday party a surprise party.”

The latest defense of Frost—the longest, most publicized, and most extravagantly subtitled to date—is David Orr’s The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong . Orr is a pithy, pushy poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review , and the author of one previous book, Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (2011). On face, The Road Not Taken looks like that earlier book, which performed a particular service for a particular audience: if you’ve always wanted to vacation to that foreign destination called Poetry, but simply don’t have the time, Orr’s travel guide will save you the trouble by condensing all that beautiful, pointless sightseeing into 200 pages. (This is Orr’s metaphor: in its introduction, Beautiful & Pointless analogizes modern poetry with Belgium, a beautiful and pointless country.)

But Orr’s new book is far subtler, stranger, and more subversive than his last, a how-to that admits defeat page after page, a manual for the uninitiated which never dumbs down or tidies up its unsettling suggestions. Orr has written the rare book on poetry that does not discriminate between audiences: newcomers and experts, Americans and Belgians, This Frost or the Other Frost, you or me or Orr. Why? We’re all wrong.

Orr’s Frost evolves into an unmanageable poet, but he starts off as something simple: the author of “The Road Not Taken,” a poem whose ubiquity goes without saying. Orr says it anyway, finding the poem’s deep cultural seepage in Ford commercials, rap lyrics, journalistic clichés, “one of the foundational texts of modern self-help” ( The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth ), and over four hundred books “on subjects ranging from political theory to the impending zombie apocalypse.” (Orr overlooks the prevalence of the phrase “the road less traveled” in America’s sex columns ; his arguments suffer accordingly.) Whether or not you’ve actively tried to memorize this poem, you likely have its best-known phrases stored in your vocabulary. Or you know its moves, its progression of steps forth and looks back, the way you half remember a joke: a man walks into a yellow wood, two roads diverge, he chooses “the one less traveled by,” that makes all the difference, America-brand individualism wins again.

The punch line, Orr reveals, is that the road “less traveled by” apparently wasn’t: worn down by passersby “really about the same,” both roads “that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.” Take these lines literally, and the speaker’s sonorous conclusion—“I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference”—sounds less like measured stock-taking than an after-the-fact justification. For champions of the Other Frost (and for Frost himself), “The Road Not Taken” is a dark joke at the expense of a self-deluding speaker—as Orr articulates the position: “The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.” But Orr is too hesitant, too baffled, to fix the poem with one definitive reading, whether as “a paean to triumphant self-assertion” or as that paean’s wicked parody. Oscillating between extremes, “The Road Not Taken” ceases to be about a particular choice and becomes “about the necessity of choosing that somehow, like its author, never makes a choice itself—that instead repeatedly returns us to the same enigmatic, leaf-shadowed crossroads.”

Orr is not the first reader to complicate Frost’s greatest hit: see books on and by Frost , reviews of those books , even Orange Is the New Black . Orr makes his most original points, and finds his winningly self-skeptical voice, in the book’s four central chapters. All four work as discrete lessons on how to break into almost any poem; all four fail, exasperatingly but instructively, at cracking “The Road Not Taken.” In “The Poet,” Orr introduces a man as indecipherable as his best-known poem, obscured by biased biographers, adulatory defenders, and his own designing performance as America’s sour, lovable, libertarian sage (a role the culture now fills with Ron Swanson). In “The Poem,” Orr relates how “The Road Not Taken” was misunderstood by its very first reader and dedicatee, the English critic-poet Edward Thomas, and finds openings for that misunderstanding throughout the poem, from its title (which road wasn’t taken, and by whom?) to its final word. In the trendily interdisciplinary “The Choice,” Orr turns the poem into a case study for contemporary sociology, philosophy, marketing, and even neuroscience (Frost’s two roads map comfortably onto the brain’s left and right hemispheres). And in “The Chooser,” Frost’s poem serves as confirmation for two mutually exclusive notions of American personhood, the self as moment-to-moment construction and the self as wholesale discovery.

By now, Orr has perfected strategies for exposing poetry to new audiences. His deftest is a bait and switch: he gives airtime to outsider assumptions (“Poets, we assume, are not popular—at least after 1910 or so”) and hard-to-gauge truisms (“Poetry has always oscillated between guardedness and fervor”) only to second-guess, backtrack, uncover exceptions. Orr’s off-topic jokiness, which spurs the taut comic routines of his journalism (and, unchecked in Beautiful & Pointless , produces a dinner full of dad jokes), is absent, replaced by a single-minded drive to let no easy reading stand. The result is not only a compilation of brilliant explanations for non-experts, on topics both poetic and not—Frost’s metrical theory of “the sound of sense,” or “the border of determinism and free will”—but also “a guide to modern poetry” far more welcoming, more wide-ranging, than Orr’s first book.

It’s also wrong—“wrong” in the way Orr’s subtitle informs us that “almost everyone” is wrong, subject to unacknowledged biases, overinflated claims, indigestible self-contradiction. As the book progresses, “The Road Not Taken” builds up into everything and nothing: on one page, it “captures the difficult essence of American experience”; on the next, it’s a funhouse of deception and distortion. Frost comes across as the century’s most prescient thinker, encoding contemporary philosophy and psychology into gnomic lines, but also as a modernist supervillain, bent on deceiving all audiences, himself included. That Orr never even tries to resolve these contradictions is not a demerit but this book’s great unspoken lesson. The further you get into “The Road Not Taken,” or any inexhaustible poem, the notion of any one unequivocally “right” reading seems more and more like an illusion. Depending on how you view it, Orr’s shrewd guide will teach you how to read Frost in many “right” ways, or how to read him spectacularly wrong. Thankfully, it doesn’t make a difference.

Published on April 29, 2016

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  • The Road Not Taken

Read below our complete notes on the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Our notes cover The Road Not Taken summary, themes, and a detailed literary analysis.

Background of the Poem

“The Road Not Taken” is a poem by Robert Frost. It was published in The Atlantic Monthly in August 1915. This poem was used as an opening poem of Robert Frost’s collection Mountain Interval in 1916. It presents a narrator who is recalling his journey through the forest when he had to choose between two divergent roads. This poem is one of the most well-known and most often misunderstood poems of Robert Frost. 

Frost’s Inspiration for “The Road Not Taken”

The inspiration of “The Road Not Taken” came when Frost noticed a familiar habit of his close friend in England, Edward Thomas. Frost used to frequently take long walks with Thomas through the countryside. Edward Thomas, an English-Welsh poet, would always regret not taking the other path. Thomas would always sigh over what they would have seen if they had taken the other path. Thomas would think that if they had chosen the other path, it might have offered them many opportunities to see and experience nature. 

At such times of regret, Frost would always tell Thomas that “It does not matter what road you take. You will always regret and wish you had taken the other one.” In this way, Frost wrote this poem to be a light-hearted one but it turned to be more serious and ambiguous for readers. 

Historical Context

There were different historically significant events going on in 1916. Therefore, it is not possible to identify one specific meaning as the one that the poet had in mind. When this poem was written, things of great importance were occurring in the poet’s life and social order. Firstly, in 1916, an act of Congress made “The National Park Services” to keep millions of acres of the forest land safe for the enjoyment of future generations. 

Secondly, Albert Einstein came up with his theory of relativity which claimed that things are dependent on relative circumstances and not on absolute knowledge. The end result of any choice that a person makes is not absolute. This affected the thinking of people to a great extent. They started treating events and feelings relative. The pleasing connection with nature and one’s personal feelings regarding one’s future are the main subjects of this poem. 

Industrial Revolution and World War I

The industrial revolution in the late 1800s brought advances in international commerce through advances in travel and communication. It became difficult for economic powers like the U.S. and Japan to stay uninvolved. The American public wanted no involvement in World War I. It was a year after this poem was published when America had to choose between joining the war. 

When Frost and his family went home, England was already at war. The central subject of “The Road Not Taken” reflects the position of the two countries where Frost had lived. Britain joined other countries in the fight and America tried to stay away from it. Each side has a good reason to choose their path and face the consequences. 

Urbanization

The relation between people and society is the central core of “The Road Not Taken.” The poet asks the question of whether one must follow the footsteps of the majority or the least traveled path. In 1916, this question was part of the debate. Industrialization was the dominant social force in the last half of the nineteenth-century. 

As factories went up, people came to cities to get jobs. Immigrants from other countries came for the same reason. The cities started to construct new quarters for the coming families. These living quarters were made together on top of one another. It created a frustrating situation for those people who came from open lands. 

By 1916, artists, philosophers, and other sensitive people started questioning the depersonalizing effects of urbanization and industrialization. They were worried about the situation that has changed the nature of human thinking. People followed what the majority was doing and they lost connection with themselves and nature as well. They couldn’t decide on their own and they relied on others for prosperity. This poem raises the question regarding individuality and independence. 

The Road Not Taken Summary

The speaker of the poem walks through a forest where trees have shed their yellow leaves in autumn. He reaches a junction where the road becomes two diverging roads. The speaker is one person; therefore, he regrets that he cannot travel both roads. He stands at the fork in the road for a long time. He tries to see where one of the paths does go. The speaker cannot see very far because the forest is dense. Also, the road is not straight. 

The speaker then takes the other path. He judges the second path as good a choice as the first one. He considers it a better option of the two since it is grassy. The path chosen by the speaker is also less worn than the first path. When the speaker starts walking on the second road, he thinks that the two paths are more or less equally ragged. 

The speaker recalls that both roads were covered with leaves in the morning. These leaves had not been yet turned black by foot walks. He exclaims that he is saving the first road and will travel it some other day. Immediately, the speaker contradicts his statement with the recognition that in one’s life, one road leads to another road. Therefore, it is unlikely to say that he will ever get a chance to come back to the first road. 

The speaker visualizes his distant future when he will be narrating, with a sigh, the story of his choosing which road to travel. The speaker speaks as if he is looking back from his future at the present choice. He says that he had to choose between two roads, and he chose the one which was less traveled. The speaker from the future says that the result of that selection between roads has made all the differences in the speaker’s life. 

Themes in the Poem

The central theme of the poem appears when the speaker faces crossroads. The first line of the poem says that “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” It is a classic conceit for a life decision. The speaker then begins to consider the two options. He tries to select a better choice. However, Frost’s poem claims that our choices are less real than we think. Our power to perceive meaningful differences among options is negligible—the two roads are “as just as fair.” 

According to the poem, fate constantly guides us to take a step forward despite our attempts to exercise free will. Our choices fall inferior to our fate which decides all.

Choices and Uncertainty

In “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker describes himself as a confused person who is facing a situation to choose between two roads. The speaker’s choice acts as an extended metaphor for all the choices that every individual must make in life. Through the speaker’s experience, the poem describes the nature of choices and the situation when a person is forced to choose.

The speaker’s first emotion is “sorrow,” as he regrets the reality that it is impossible to “travel both” roads or to experience both things. The poem explores that every choice demands the loss of opportunity. Also, choices are painful because they are made with incomplete information. 

The speaker seeks to collect as much information as possible by observing “down one (road) as far as I could.” However, there is a limit to what the speaker can see and the rest of the things are out of his sight. The speaker has not enough information about which one path is the right one. No one can truly predict what each choice will bring. This poem reflects the anxiety that everyone experiences whenever they step forward on a new road in life. 

After making a final choice, one loses the opportunity to experience the things that are not chosen. The choice of one thing cuts off the knowledge of the alternate choice. It leaves one with uncertainty and they never know if they had made the right choice.

The final line of the poem is a reminder that one’s choices in life make all the difference. It is the choice that gives identity to a person. 

I ndividualism and nonconformity 

In “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker has to choose between two roads. He chooses the one which is less traveled. The choice between the two roads can be treated as a conventional choice versus unconventional choice. By selecting the less-traveled path, the speaker shows that he values individualism over conformity

While deciding which road to take, the speaker notes that the second is “just as fair” as the first. However, the less worn-out state of the road makes the speaker choose it. Notably, the absence of signs of travel on the chosen path is taken positively rather than negatively. Rather than saying that the road looked as if it had not traveled much, the speaker states that it was “grassy”. Being grassy shows it is the result of a very few people walking on it. The speaker also says that the second road “wanted wear.”

It means that the road itself demanded to walk on it. In this way, the speaker suggests that nonconformity is a positive trait. It also shows that popularity makes things less attractive.

Despite the speaker’s suggestion for nonconformity, the poem remains ambiguous about whether the grassy road will lead to something better. In this way, firstly, the poem states that it is hard to identify what is non-conformist. After choosing the road, the two roads seem about the same. It confuses the speaker more that he does not know if the road was less traveled. The speaker seems to sense that though he or she has attempted to take the road “less traveled,” there’s no actual way to know if it was less traveled.

Secondly, the poem subtly suggests that no guarantee choosing a less walked path will make a positive difference. There is also a third opinion offered by the poem as well. The speaker says that selecting the path made all the differences. It is not the path that makes the difference because no one can truly measure which path is traveled less. The difference is made by choosing a direction that is not conventional. In this way, the poem teaches that it is one’s effort that matters.

Making meaning

This poem suggests that it is less important to think if the speaker’s choice made all the difference from what he believes that it did. People create a fictional version of their lives by making beliefs and meaning when they are not there. However, this poem does not consider meaning-making as deceitful but rather as a part of human life.

Another theme in this poem is indecision. In reality, the speaker of the poem has to choose to travel one road between the two. However, he overthinks and procrastinates. He tries to look for all the experiences he has to face on each road. At last, he decides to take the one that was grassy and less traveled. After making the decision, the speaker still concerns his future and the consequences of his choice. If it was one road, it would be easier for him to travel immediately. Similarly, people face such a situation in their lives, and therefore, they confront indecisiveness. 

Self-belief

The speaker in the poem decides to choose the road himself. He does not rely on someone else to direct him. The speaker seems to have confidence in himself. Therefore, he puts himself responsible for all the consequences in the future regarding his choice in the present. 

This poem suggests that one should have faith in one’s self. Such quality of independent decision- making helps people learn many things. They start valuing their intuition. They build confidence in explaining their decision. In this way, trust in one’s self develops. 

The Road Not Taken Literary Analysis

“The Road Not Taken” is a poem about the struggles of the speaker to decide which one of the two roads he must choose. It has both literal and metaphorical meanings. The two roads symbolize two directions in life to follow. This poem highlights those moments in life when it is necessary to take a firm decision without enough information.

This poem questions a person’s free will and determinism. The speaker in the poem consciously decides which way he has to go. He rejects the path with the bend in it. Also, external factors play an important role in his decision-making process.

This poem is about the sacrifices that one has to make. To make a difference, a person has to prefer one option over another and belief in him.

The poet travels on foot in the woods. He reaches a junction where two roads diverged. Suddenly, he realizes that as a single traveler, he can’t travel both roads. Here, two roads are used as a metaphor for two ways of life. The forest is yellow, which means that it is autumn and the trees are shedding their yellow leaves.

As the speaker can’t travel both the roads, he stands there to try to select which path he is going to travel to. However, the poet wants to go down both roads. He is thinking about it hard. He is looking down one road. He tries to see where it goes. The thickness of the woods blocks the view of the speaker. Also, the road is bent in shape and not linear.

The phrase “as just as it is fair” means righteous and equal. This phrase is an example of a simile. The speaker decides to examine the other path because he finds the other road to be less traveled and full of grass

“Wanted wear” is an example of personification. The speaker has personified the grassy road and says that it wanted people to walk on it.

After traveling through the road, the speaker explores that both the roads are equally traveled. At first, the speaker finds the first road to be the more traveled one. Then, he says that both the roads seem equally traveled. The phrase ‘as for that” refers to the road being less worn.

Lines 11-15

Here, the speaker finds that both the paths are looking the same in the morning. After this, he goes in the flashback. It was a tough decision for him to choose the real road because, in the morning, he was the first person who walked on the road. There were no other footsteps. For this reason, he couldn’t decide the right path immediately as no step had left marks on the leaves on the roads to show him the right road. In these lines, the speaker has used imagery.

The poet exclaims that he saves the first passage for another time. He knows that “way leads” to another, and then another. He knows that in this way, one ends up very far from where one has started the journey. The poet here saves the first road for another day. Additionally, the speaker doesn’t think he will ever be able to come back and take the other path to experience it.

Lines 16-20

This stanza shows the speaker’s failure in choosing the right path. The word ‘sigh’ suggests that he will be disappointed with the decision. He accepts that he will be responsible if he fails in taking the right decision. “Ages and ages” is an example of alliteration.

The poet took the road that no one else did and it made the difference in his life that made him unique. One’s individualism matters. Nevertheless, a “difference” may mean success or complete failure.

Mood and tone

It is important to understand the difference between tone and mood. The tone of the poem is how the author of the work feels about it. One can identify it by examining the diction of the work. The diction of the poem is descriptive.

By using words like “diverged,” “sorry,” and “sigh,” the tone of the poem is about longing and meditation. This poem is reflective and thoughtful. The speaker is confused between two options. It is a turning point in the life of the speaker. He has to choose one path and leave behind the other forever.

The speaker is thinking about the pros and cons of the situation. The decision needs a serious approach to consider the outcomes of each choice.  

The mood of the poem is related to the readers and their feelings about the poem. In this way, the mood of the poem is somber and anxious in the beginning but hopeful at the end.

Narrative poem

“The Road Not Taken” is a narrative poem. It has a character, setting, plot, and conflict. The conflict in the poem is the indecisiveness of the persona of the poem.

Point of View

“The Road Not Taken” is narrated from the first-person point of view. The speaker describes his experience by representing himself as “l.” It enables readers to understand the speaker’s feelings and thoughts.

Style, structure, and Rhyme

“The Road Not Taken” consists of four stanzas. Each stanza comprises five lines. The rhyme is strict with the rhyming scheme ABAAB, except for the last line. It is written in iambic tetrameter.

The setting of the poem is “yellow woods.” It is a place where one road is divided into two. The yellow color depicts the autumn season. The road is in a deserted place because there are no other travelers. The speaker standing at the junction sees that one road is gassier than the other.

The speaker of this poem has no name and identity. There is no depiction of the physical appearance of the speaker. It represents the whole of human nature. Human nature wants life to have meaning and purpose. The speaker of the poem is a traveler who comes up with an important decision to make.

The crossroads symbolize the journey of life. It also signifies the destination. People come across decision- making moments that contain equally balanced alternatives. One has to consider the advantages and disadvantages before making a choice.

Literary Devices in the Poem

Alliteration.

Alliteration is the repetition of similar consonant sounds in a series of words at a stressed syllable. In the second stanza, the sound /w/ is repeated in “ w anted w ear.” Similarly, the sound /f/ is repeated in “ f irst f or” in the third stanza.

It is the repetition of identical vowel sounds in successive words. In this poem, assonance contributes to establish the rhyme of the poem and make it easily readable. “L oo ked down one a s f a r a s I c ou ld,” “ a s just a s f a ir,” “it w a s gr a ssy and w a nted we a r,” and “ a ges and a ges” are all examples of assonance. 

Connotation

Connotation means the secondary meaning of the word. The primary meaning of “The Road” is a path that a person travels. Its secondary meaning is of “choice.” The presence of two paths/two choices gives the feeling of indecision to the speaker.

It is the repetition of consonant sounds at the start, middle or end of the words. “Yello w w oods,” “ t o where i t ben t ,” “ th en took the o th er,” “ w anted w ear,” and “kno w ing ho w w ay leads on to w ay” are all the examples of consonance.

This whole poem is an extended metaphor. The two roads act as a metaphor for two choices in life. The thinking of the speaker about the selection of one road is also a metaphor used for thinking before taking a decision.

The yellow color of the woods is also a metaphor. It is compared with the moment when a person has to choose the downfall of his life or when he is getting old.

Personification

Personification means to attribute human qualities to nonhuman things. Personification occurs in the second stanza when the speaker says that the road was grassy and “wanted wear.” By saying that the road has a “better claim,” the speaker states that the road intends to attract travelers.

For most of the poem, the speaker is describing the setting. Visual imagery is used because the speaker is sketching the scenery. He says that the road is yellow which creates a mental image of trees shedding leaves in autumn. The worn-out state of the road also contributes to the meaning of the poem. There is auditory imagery as well by using the word “sigh.”

The irony in the poem is in the idea of multiple significance of the road. They are not simple roads because they have a secondary meaning as well. The speaker of the poem has to take the road of the majority or the road with fewer travelers. The eventual choice of the speaker is also ironic. Both the roads are equally worn out but the speaker still chooses the second. 

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The Main Message in Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken

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Robert Frost is arguably one of the most well-known American poets of all time, so it’s not surprising that his work is taught in high schools and colleges across the nation. Because he’s so famous, chances are you’ve encountered “The Road Not Taken” before .

We’re here to help you build a deeper understanding of “The Road Not Taken.” To help you learn what Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” poem is all about, we’ll cover the following in this article:

  • A brief intro to the poet, Robert Frost
  • Information about the poem’s background
  • “The Road Not Taken” meaning
  • “The Road Not Taken” analysis, including the top two themes in the poem
  • The poetic devices in “The Road Not Taken” that you need to know

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get going!

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Robert Frost is widely recognized as one of the most influential American poets of the 20th century. (Sneha Raushan/ Wikimedia )

Robert Frost Biography

Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, California. His father was a newspaper editor (a profession Frost later practiced himself, among others), and his mother was a teacher and Scottish immigrant. When he was about ten years old, his family moved to Massachusetts to be near his grandfather, who owned a sawmill. Frost was named both the valedictorian and the “class poet” of his high school graduating class ...and two years later published his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy,” in the New York Independent magazine. 

At this point, Frost knew he wanted to be a poet. But unfortunately, the next segment of Frost’s life would be marked by upheaval . He attended both Dartmouth and Harvard, but dropped out of both before graduating. His poetry wasn’t gaining traction in the United States, either. To complicate matters further, Frost and his wife, Elinor, suffered personal tragedy when two of their six children died in infancy. 

In 1900, feeling frustrated by his job prospects and a lack of traction in his poetry career, Frost moved his family to a farm left to him by his grandfather in Derry, New Hampshire. Frost would live there for nine years, and many of his most famous early poems were written before his morning chores while tending to the farm . But Frost’s poetry was still largely overlooked by American publishers. Consequently, Frost decided to sell the farm in 1911 and moved his family to London. It was there he published his first anthology of poetry, A Boy’s Will, in 1913 . 

Frost’s second anthology, North of Boston, was published in 1914 and found massive success in England. Finally, after years of struggle, Frost became a famous poet essentially overnight. In order to avoid WWI, Frost returned to the U.S. in 1915 and began teaching at Amherst College and the University of Michigan , all the while continuing to write poetry. He received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and became the public face of 20th century American poetry . Late in life, at 86 years old, Robert Frost also became the first inaugural poet at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1960. 

Throughout his career, Frost never strayed far from old-fashioned, pastoral poetry, despite the fact that newer American poets moved in a more experimental direction. Frost’s poetry continued to focus on rural New England life up until his death in 1963. 

Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” Poem

“The Road Not Taken” is a narrative poem , meaning it is a poem that tells a story. It was written in 1915 as a joke for Frost’s friend, Edward Thomas. Frost and Thomas were fond of hiking together, and Thomas often had trouble making up his mind which trail they should follow. (Yes, that’s right: one of the most famous American poems was originally written as a goofy private joke between two friends!)

Frost first read it to some college students who, to his surprise, thought it a very serious poem. “The Road Not Taken” was first published in the August 1915 issue of The Atlantic Monthly , and then was re-published as the opening poem in his poetry collection Mountain Interval the next year.

The full text of the poem is below.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

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 kept 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.

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Frost's most famous poem got its start as part of a letter sent to his best friend on the eve of World War I.

The Background Behind “The Road Not Taken” Poem

“The Road Not Taken” has become well known for its perceived encouragement to take the “[road] less traveled by.” In other words, many people interpret this poem as a call to blaze new trails and break away from the status quo. This is partly why lots of people misremember the poem’s title as “The Road Less Travelled.” 

This interpretation of “The Road Not Taken” is debatable (more on that later), but it was enough to inspire Frost’s friend Edward Thomas to make a very grave decision to fight in World War I.

Frost and Thomas were great friends while Frost lived in England, both of them were well-read and very interested in nature. They frequently took long walks together , observing nature in the English countryside. However, Frost’s time in England ended in 1915 when World War I was on the verge of breaking out. He returned to the United States to avoid the war and fully expected Thomas to follow him. 

Thomas did not. Frost’s poem came in the mail as Thomas was deciding whether to leave Europe or to participate in the war effort. While “The Road Not Taken” wasn’t the only thing that made Thomas enlist and fight in World War I, it was a factor in his decision. Thomas, regretting his lack of achievement compared to his good friend Frost and feeling that the poem mocked his indecisiveness, decided to take initiative and fight for his country. Unfortunately, Thomas was killed at the Battle of Arras on April 9, 1917.

Thomas was inspired to take “the road not taken” because of Frost’s poem. The same is true for many people who’ve read the poem since it was first published in 1915. The concept of taking a “road less traveled'' seems to advocate for individuality and perseverance , both of which are considered central to American culture. The poem has been republished thousands upon thousands of times and has inspired everything from self-help books to car commercials .

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Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Analysis: Meaning and Themes

To help you understand the significance of Robert Frost’s poetry, we’ll break down the overall meaning and major themes of the poem in our “The Road Not Taken” analysis below. 

But before we do, go back and reread the poem. Once you have that done, come back here...and we can get started! 

Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Meaning

“The Road Not Taken” is a poem that argues for the importance of our choices, both big and small, since they shape our journey through life . For Frost, the most important decisions we make aren’t the ones we spend tons of time thinking about, like who we have relationships with , where we go to college , or what our future career should be . Instead, Frost’s poem posits that the small choices we make each and every day also have big impacts on our lives. Each decision we make sets us upon a path that we may not understand the importance of until much, much later. 

This theme is reflected throughout the poem. For instance, the poem begins with a speaker placing us in a scene, specifically at the point where two roads break away from each other in the middle of a “yellow wood.”

The speaker is sorry they cannot go both directions and still “be one traveler,” which is to say that they cannot live two divergent lives and still be one single person . In other words, the speaker can’t “have their cake and eat it, too.” The speaker has to choose one direction to go down, because like in life, making a decision often means that other doors are subsequently shut for you. 

For example, if you choose to go to college at UCLA, that means you’re also choosing not to go to college elsewhere. You’ll never know what it would be like to go to the University of Michigan or as a freshman straight out of high school because you made a different choice. But this is true for smaller, day-to-day decisions as well. Choosing who you spend time with, how hard you study, and what hobbies your pursue are examples of smaller choices that also shape your future, too.

The speaker of the poem understands that . They stand at the crossroads of these two paths for a long time, contemplating their choice. First, they stare down one path as far as he or she can, to where it trails off into the undergrowth. The speaker then decides to take the other path, which they state is just as “fair,” meaning just as attractive as the first. The narrator states that the second path “wanted wear,” meaning that it was slightly more overgrown than the first path.

But more importantly, no matter which path the speaker takes, they know they’re committed to follow it wherever it may lead. We see that in this stanza:

While the speaker says they “saved the first” path for “another day” to make them feel better about their decision, the next two lines show that the speaker realizes they probably won’t be able to double back and take the first path, no matter where the second one leads. Just like in life, each path leads to another path, and then another. In other words, the decisions we make in the moment add up and influence where we end up in life--and we don’t really get a “redo” on. 

After choosing their path, the speaker says they look forward to a day far in the future when, “with a sigh,” they’ll tell people about taking the road “less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.” 

Does this mean that taking the one less traveled has “made all the difference” in a good way?

Saying so “with a sigh” doesn’t necessarily sound like a good thing. The poem isn’t at all clear on whether or not taking the less traveled path was a good choice or a bad choice . So while the poem is clear that all of our choices shape the path we take in life, it’s more ambiguous about whether choosing “less traveled” paths is a good thing or not. That’s up to readers to decide! 

Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Theme 1: The Power of Hindsight 

This brings us to our first theme: how hindsight gives our choices power.  

The speaker begins at a point of bifurcation (which is a fancy way of saying “break into two branches”). As readers, we’re meant to take the poem both as a literal story about someone in the woods trying to decide which way to go, as well as a metaphor about how our life choices are like divergent paths in the woods. 

Like we mentioned earlier, the poem is clear that you can’t take two paths and still “be one traveler,” nor can you be certain that you’ll ever get a chance to test out your other options. That’s because every choice you make leads to more choices, all of which lead you further and further from our starting point. 

However, the poem also suggests that while the choices we make are important, how we interpret these choices is what really makes us who we are. We see this in the last lines of the poem, which read: 

I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Essentially, the speaker is saying that later in life he will look back in time and see that moment as one of great significance. But we can only know which choices matter the most through the power of retrospection. It’s like the old saying goes: hindsight is 20/20! 

Here’s what frost means: when we’re making choices in life, they might seem inconsequential or like they’re not that big of a deal. But once time passes and we’ve journeyed down our path a little farther, we can look back into the past and see which choices have shaped us the most. And oftentimes, those choices aren’t the ones we think are most important in the moment. The clarity and wisdom of hindsight allows us to realize that doing something like taking the path “less traveled by” has impacted our lives immensely. 

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"The Road Not Taken" is also about our perspective...and how hindsight helps us reconsider our past decision.  

Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Theme 2: Perspective and Memory

The other major theme in “The Road Not Taken” is how our individual perspective. 

The speaker of the poem spends most of their time trying to decide which path to take. They describe each path in detail: the first one curves into the undergrowth, while the second was more tempting because it was “grassy” and a little less worn. 

But the truth is that these paths have more in common than not. They’re both in the woods, for one. But the speaker also says the first is “just as fair” as the other, meaning it’s just as pretty or attractive. They also mention that “And both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black,” which is a poetic way of saying that neither path had been walked on in a while. And even the one the poet says is less traveled was actually “worn...about the same” as the first path! 

So it’s t he speaker’s perspective that makes these paths seem divergent rather than them actually being super different from one another! 

Because our perspectives shape the way we understand the world, it also affects our memories.  Our memories help us understand who we are, and they shape the person we become. But as we tell ourselves our own story, we overwrite our memories . It’s kind of like deleting a sentence and retyping it...only for it to change a little bit each time! 

What is your earliest memory? What is your favorite memory? Now think about this: are you remembering them, or are you remembering remembering them? Is there a difference? Yes, because science shows that every single time we recall a memory we change it . It’s very possible that your favorite early memory isn’t your memory at all--it is more likely a memory of being told something that happened to you. Perhaps you have a photograph of a moment that triggers your memory. The photograph may not change, but you do and your memory of the things that happened in that moment do.

So, if our experiences and our choices make us who we are, but we’re constantly misremembering and changing our memories, how do actual events even matter? 

“The Road Not Taken” says that they do. Our choices we make are impactful, but the way we remember them is what helps shape us as individuals. So “The Road Not Taken” isn’t necessarily an ode to bravely taking the less popular path when others wouldn’t. It’s more like an ode to being resigned to believing our choices made us who we are, even though if we hadn’t made them, hadn’t taken that path, we’d be someone else who made choices that were just as valid.

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Poetic devices are the tools we can use to unpack the meaning of a poem. Here are two that are important to understanding "The Road Not Taken."

The Top 2 Poetic Devices in “The Road Not Taken”

Poetic devices are literary devices that poets use to enhance and create a poem’s structure, tone, rhythm, and meaning. In Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken,” Frost uses iambic meter and voice to reinforce the poem’s meaning . 

Poetic Device 1: Iambic Meter

First thing’s first: the following is only a short overview of iambic meter. If you want an in-depth discussion of meter, check out our blog about it . 

So what is meter? The English language has about an equal number of stressed and unstressed syllables. Arranging these stressed syllables into consistent is one of the most common ways of giving a poem a structure... and this arrangement is called “meter.” 

A poem’s meter is made up of units. Each “unit” of stressed and unstressed syllables that repeats in a poem is called a foot. A foot can either be an iamb (one unstressed followed by one stressed syllable), a trochee (one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable), a dactyl (one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables) or an anapest (two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable). 

The iamb is the foot that comes to us most naturally as native English speakers, and the most iambs we can speak easily without having to inhale for another breath is about five. So the most common structure for English language poetry is iambic pentameter , meaning the most common foot is an iamb, and there are five iambs per line. Historically, the vast majority of poetry written in English has been in iambic pentameter, and it was the default format for English poetry for centuries.

But pentameter isn’t the only iambic meter : two feet make dimeter, three feet make trimeter, four feet make tetrameter, and six feet make hexameter, and so forth.

The Modernist poets started moving away from these traditional repeating patterns of meter just after World War I, using invented patterns called “free verse.” Although Modernist free verse didn’t replace metrical verse overnight or completely, it slowly broke down the central importance of it in ways that are still felt today. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is from the very tail end of the iambic-meter-as-a-necessity era. Frost stubbornly and famously stuck to the traditional metrical forms , comparing free verse to playing tennis “with the net down.”

It is the iambic meter that gives the poem its “old-fashioned” rhythm and comfortable feeling. It’s also the thing that makes the poem sound so natural when you read it out loud. You may not even immediately recognize that the poem is in iambic meter, but it becomes clear when you start breaking down the lines. Take this one, for example:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

Looking at the stressed and unstressed syllables we get:

two ROADS/di-VERGED/in a YELL/ow WOOD

The capitalized syllables are stressed, and the lowercase ones aren’t. Each pair of these is an iamb! 

There are four stressed syllables on this line , as well as every other line in the poem. That means this poem is in iambic tetrameter. The most common foot is an iamb (although notice that the third foot is an anapest), and there are four of them.

So why is this important? First, iambic tetrameter is a metrical pattern favored by the 19th century Romantics , who very frequently wrote poems that involved lonely people having great epiphanies while out in nature by themselves. By mimicking that style, Frost pulls on a long poetic tradition helps readers hone in on some of the major themes of his poem--specifically, that the speaker’s decision in the woods will have long-term consequences for both their character and their life. 

The iambic form also rolls off of the tongue easily because it’s the most common meter in the English language. That also echoes the importance of nature in “The Road Not Taken”: both in terms of the natural imagery in the poem, but also in its discussion of the nature of perspective and memory. In that way, the form of the poem helps to reinforce its themes! 

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Poetic Device 2: Voice

The second poetic device that Frost employs is voice. The voice of a poem is the product of all the stylistic and vocabulary choices that add up to create a character . In this case, the poem has one character: the speaker. The speaker is unnamed, and it’s through their perspective that we experience the poem. It’s easy to think of the speaker as being Frost himself, but try to resist that temptation. The voice of a poem is an artificial construct, a character created to give the poem a certain effect.\

So how does Frost create this voice? First, note that the poem is in first person . That means we’re getting the speaker’s perspective in their own words, signaled by their use of first person pronouns like “I.” Additionally, the audience isn’t being addressed directly (like in Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise). Instead, it’s as if we’ve intruded upon the speaker’s thoughts as they ruminate over the potential ramifications of choosing one path over another.

Writing the poem in first person means that we’re getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth. In some ways, this is a good thing: it helps us understand the speaker’s unique perspective and in their own unique voice. But in other ways, it makes the objective details of the moment less clear. That’s because t he speaker’s recounting of the moment in the woods is colored by his own memory. That means we have to rely on the speaker’s interpretation of events...and decide how that impacts our interpretation of the poem! The first person narration also gives the poem much of its reflective nature.

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What’s Next?

Analyzing poetry can be tricky, so it’s helpful to read a few expert analyses. We have a bunch on our blog that you can read through, like this one about Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” or this article that explains 10 different sonnets!

It’s much easier to analyze poetry when you have the right tools to do it! Don’t miss our in-depth guides to poetic devices like assonance , iambic pentameter , and allusion .

If you’re more about writing poetry than analyzing it, we’ve got you covered! Here are five great tips for writing poetry (and a few scholarships for budding poets , too).

These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links, PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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The Road not Taken Poem Analysis

This essay will provide an analysis of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” It will discuss the poem’s themes of choice, individualism, and the interpretation of life decisions. The piece will explore Frost’s use of metaphor and imagery, and the poem’s enduring significance in American literature. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with Analysis.

How it works

“The Road not taken is a poem written in 1916 by Robert Frost and was the first poem of the collection Mountain interval. The poem is the story of a traveler, who is located into the intersection of two diverged roads and must choose one to continue his way, as he hesitates to take one or other to finally make his choice. Robert Frost uses imagery, metaphor, and personification to describe the difficulties facing in making decisions and where choices can lead in life.

Imagery is the most remarkable device in this poem because the narrator stands to describe the site of the occurring. “two roads diverged in a wood” means that the event happens in a quiet forest. “bent in the undergrowth” signifies that the roads are curvy and there is point where the view of the traveler gets loose on the horizon. Another part of the setting is when Frost mentions “yellow wood” which clarifies that the scene happens on a sunny day of fall. Imagery, in this poem is effective because the ones who has read it, can immediately start thinking about the place.

Metaphor has an important role in this poem since it has many of it and it gives the poem a deep meaning. In a metaphoric signification traveler means a person living because life is a travel. The “diverged roads” symbolizes that, in life there are many choices or decisions we living to, either take one or the other. “yellow woods” represents the struggles people go through their lives. During those times, the choices made are often critical. Frost uses the metaphors in this poem, to make a point on the value of different choices a person makes in different case and their effects on his life.

Another poetic device used by Frost is the personification. Personification, in the road not taken defines which character that decisions can play in life. “Because it was grassy and wanted” is the reason of the traveler choice. Frost wants the readers to understand that sometimes people make choices based on the looking without further evaluation. According to Frost, choices like that, are often the worst. The translation of this poem to real life is that, appearance is a trap in the sense that things appear to shine, but they are no longer shine after you make the choice and lead to a fail.

The road not taken by one of the most beloved poets, Robert Frost, is a poem that tell the struggles of a traveler of choosing his way in the wood, but has a deep meaning as the author uses figure of speech like the metaphor and the personification. This poem gives the readers moral lessons about choices, they are hard times moments and need to take carefully with consideration. Choices based on the looking are not the best, they are the causes of the fallings. Choices are crucial, because life is choices.”

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58 The Road Not Taken Essay Topics & Examples

With good The Road Not Taken essay questions and topics, you won’t have problems with exploring the poem’s themes and symbolism. Our experts have provided some titles and paper examples for you to check.

🏆 Best The Road Not Taken Essay Topics & Examples

📌 most interesting the road not taken essay questions & topics, 👍 good research topics about the road not taken.

  • Robert Frost’s Writing Style Essay The leading theme of the poem is the non-conformist ideas of the author, the problem of life choice, and the dilemma in making the right decision.
  • The Road Not Taken In “The Road Not Taken”, the poet uses a reflective tone to address the significance of the choices one makes in life. The “road” referred to by the speaker is the most prominent symbol in […]
  • “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost The analysis helps to understand the message of the poem and realize the author’s vision of the world. The euphony facilitates the process of absorbing into the poem, and allows to experience with the narrator […]
  • Comparing Robert Frost’s Poems: The Road Not Taken and A Question Hence, the leading aspects and themes discussed in both poems are associated with the difficulties in decision-making, influence of life experience on the choices, and consequences of our actions.
  • “The Road Not Taken” by Frost Robert Frost wrote “The Road Not Taken” at the beginning of the 1900s to underline the difficulty of choices that people have to make. Symbols make it possible to develop the reader’s imagination, and alliteration […]
  • “The Road Not Taken” Poem by Robert Frost This is the individual we can identify as the poetic persona or the person who is doing the speaking in the poem.
  • Contradiction and Ambiguity in Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” The author expresses himself and justifies the choice using metaphors in the first two lines. In the last stanza, he posits that “I will be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages […]
  • “The Raven” and “The Road Not Taken” by Poe and Frost The poem impugns the immortality of the soul, and this makes it revolutionary by the standards of that time.”The Road Not Taken” depicts the challenges faced by any individual who must make a choice.
  • Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” Poem Explication The title captures the attention of the reader by arousing curiosity to find out about this road that is not taken, and ultimately, the poem addresses this issue by talking about the road and its […]
  • Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Literature Analysis There are a lot of different interpretations of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” that it is easy to appear in the situation that one cannot understand what the poems are about.
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  • Choosing Between Two Paths in “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
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“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost: Analysis

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, originally published in 1916, was part of his collection Mountain Interval.

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost: Analysis

  • 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 kept 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.

Introduction: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Table of Contents

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, originally published in 1916, was part of his collection Mountain Interval . The poem explores the theme of choices and their lasting consequences. Frost presents a speaker at a literal fork in the road, faced with a decision between two seemingly equal paths. With vivid natural imagery, the diverging paths symbolize life’s decisions. What makes “The Road Not Taken” unique is its frequent misinterpretation. While popularly seen as a celebration of individuality, the poem’s final lines contain a note of wistfulness, hinting that all choices carry some degree of regret. This complexity, alongside its enduring popularity, highlights the universality of pondering paths untraveled and the bittersweet nature of decision-making.

Annotations of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Literary devices in “the road not taken” by robert frost, sound and poetic devices in “the road not taken” by robert frost, functions of literary devices in “the road not taken” by robert frost.

  • Imagery: Frost paints a memorable picture with details like “yellow wood” and the personified roads that “diverged” and “wanted wear.” The alliteration emphasizes the visual setting, while the personification begins the transformation of the roads into a metaphor for life’s choices.
  • Tone: Frost’s diction, including words like “sorry,” “long I stood,” and “doubted,” establishes a thoughtful and introspective mood. The repeated “and” creates a sense of the speaker’s uncertainty and hesitation.
  • Emphasis: Through the repetition of “two roads,” Frost underscores the poem’s core theme: the weight of choices and their consequences. This reminds the reader of the profound nature of the speaker’s dilemma.
  • Meaning: The central metaphor of the roads, representing life choices, gains depth through Frost’s literary skill. The “road less traveled by” symbolizes individuality—choosing based on personal values over following the crowd. The final line, “And that has made all the difference,” suggests the speaker reflects on their choice with a sense of wisdom gained, highlighting the lasting impact decisions hold.

Themes in “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

·  Choices and Consequences:

  • Key Point: Every decision has a lasting impact, shaping our life’s trajectory.
  • Evidence: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (Line 1) – Symbolizes life’s crossroads.
  • Evidence: “And that has made all the difference” (Line 20) – Emphasizes how choices change the course of our lives.

·  Individuality vs. Conformity:

  • Key Point: The value of choosing one’s own path, even when unconventional.
  • Evidence: “I took the one less traveled by” (Line 18) – The speaker embraces independent thinking.
  • Evidence: “…wanting wear” (Line 8) – Paths symbolize societal expectations, the less-traveled one representing nonconformity.

·  The Inevitability of Regret:

  • Key Point: Even with satisfaction in our choices, a longing for the “what ifs” can linger.
  • Evidence: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” (Lines 13-14) – The speaker recognizes the finality of the decision.
  • Evidence: “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” (Line 15) – A tinge of wistfulness about the path not taken.

·  The Role of Nature:

  • Key Point: The natural world provides a setting for self-reflection and symbolizes life’s possibilities.
  • Evidence: “yellow wood” (Line 1) – Creates a visual backdrop, potentially hinting at autumn and the passage of time.
  • Evidence: “In leaves no step had trodden black” (Line 3) – The pristine paths represent the open, undecided future.

Literary Theories and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Essay topics, questions and thesis statements about “the road not taken” by robert frost.

Topics Focusing on Theme

  • Question: To what extent does “The Road Not Taken” celebrate individuality, and to what extent does it suggest the potential drawbacks of nonconformity?
  • Thesis: While “The Road Not Taken” initially seems to promote independent thinking, a closer reading reveals a wistful tone suggesting a hidden cost to always choosing the path less traveled.
  • Question: How does Frost portray the complexities of decision-making, and how does the speaker grapple with the possibility of regret?
  • Thesis: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” explores the inevitability of regret, demonstrating how even choices rooted in individuality carry the bittersweet echo of paths untaken.
  • Question: How does Frost use natural imagery to symbolize broader themes of life, choice, and the passage of time?
  • Thesis: In “The Road Not Taken,” Frost employs the natural world not just as a setting but as a central metaphor. The diverging paths represent life’s choices, and the vibrant imagery underscores the weight of these decisions.

Topics Focusing on Literary Aspects

  • Question: How does Frost use ambiguity to create a poem that invites multiple interpretations?
  • Thesis: The enduring popularity of “The Road Not Taken” stems from its intentional ambiguity; Frost crafts a poem open to various readings, inviting the reader to project their own experiences onto its themes.
  • Question: How does Frost’s use of sound devices (e.g., alliteration, repetition) contribute to the poem’s overall meaning and effect on the reader?
  • Thesis: Frost’s careful use of sound devices in “The Road Not Taken” adds lyrical quality while subtly reinforcing the poem’s themes; for example, the repeated “and” mirrors the speaker’s hesitant thought process.

Topics Linking Theory to the Poem

  • Question: How does Reader-Response theory explain the widespread misinterpretation of “The Road Not Taken” as a purely celebratory poem about individuality?
  • Thesis: Popular readings of “The Road Not Taken” reveal how readers often project a desire for empowerment onto the text, overlooking subtle hints of regret that create a more nuanced meaning.

Short Question-Answer about “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Literary works similar to “the road not taken” by robert frost.

  • “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost:
  •  Shares a focus on solitary contemplation within a natural setting. Both poems explore the allure of pausing one’s journey and diverging from the expected path, highlighting the tensions between societal expectations and individual desires.
  • “Choose Something Like a Star” by Robert Frost: Emphasizes the importance of striving towards ambitious goals. This aligns with the message in “The Road Not Taken” that choosing the path less traveled can lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
  • Short Stories:
  • “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges: This complex narrative explores a concept of infinite realities branching from each decision made. It resonates with the theme in Frost’s poem that every choice alters the course of our lives.
  • “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig: Presents a protagonist who experiences alternate lives based on different choices. This emphasizes the profound impact of decisions and explores the potential for longing for the paths not taken, a core concept within “The Road Not Taken.”

Key Points of Similarity:

  • The Centrality of Choice: These works all delve into the weight of decision-making and the lasting impact our choices have on our life trajectories.
  • Contemplation of Paths Untaken: They tap into the universal human fascination with potential alternate lives and the lingering sense of “what if” that accompanies our decisions.
  • Symbolic Journeys: Like Frost, many of these authors employ the metaphor of roads, paths, or journeys to represent broader life experiences and the choices we make along the way.

Suggested Readings: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Scholarly articles.

  • Explores recurring themes and stylistic features of Frost’s poetry, which can inform analysis of “The Road Not Taken.”
  • A biographical and critical study, potentially offering insights into Frost’s mindset when composing the poem and how it fits within his larger body of work.
  • Axelrod, Steven Gould. “The Poetry of Robert Frost.” Twentieth Century Literature , vol. 35, no. 4, 1989, pp. 498–514. JSTOR , [www.jstor.org/stable/441554]
  • Look for the text of “The Road Not Taken” and potential critical essays or background information related to the poem.
  • Search for Robert Frost’s profile to find biographical information and whether they have specific resources on “The Road Not Taken.”

Related posts:

  • “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray
  • “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy: Analysis
  • “The Lady of Shalott” by Lord Tennyson: Analysis

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Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”: Regret in the Human Psyche - A Critical Essay

Profile image of Luke Judkins

This critical essay argues that Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” is not a poem about taking a road less traveled but about regret and the state of the human psyche during the process of decision. Frost argues against indecisiveness and regret via the speaker’s battle to decidebetween two virtually identical roads—neither one more or less traveled than the other. Readers should look beyond the last two lines of Frost’s poem in order to develop a structured perspective concerning Frost’s point. Historical contextualization provides readers with a sense of the biographical elements of the poem, written in 1916 and inspired by his friend Edward Thomas. Thomas was indecisive about which path to take when they both proceeded into nature for a walk, giving Frost a beginning for the speaker in the poem. Close analysis of each stanza, reveals thatFrost’s “The Road Not Taken” has psychological implications of regret and uncertainty regarding decision-making and provides a solution by...

Related Papers

IJIRMPS International Journal , Md Rabiul Alam

Robert Frost is considered as the greatest modern poets in American literature. During his life, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times for his outstanding contribution in poetry. He is regarded “The Voice of America.” He discusses natural, personal elements and the social piece that are related to the human being very aptly and minutely in his poetry. His poetry begins with delight and ends in wisdom. The themes of his poetry are very inspirational and innovative. Critics, scholars, and the general people cite his famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ as one of the mesmeric poems. The poem is about conflict regarding two possible choices in human life. Life is not a bed of roses; a man has to fall in indecision regarding choice. He has to take the right decision. In ‘The Road Not Taken,’ the speaker believes that he will not put up with any grief due to his decision in the future. The purpose of the paper is to amplify conflicts regarding choices in human life with the assist of his renowned verse ‘The Road Not Taken.’

the road not taken reflection essay

Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Arts, and Sciences

Kurt S Candilas

– This expressive critical study is an effort to bring in light new interpretation of Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" as a reflection of his indecisiveness in life. Specifically, it aims at examining Frost's inner being, emphasizing his own self and experiences in the poem or text. The study employs the qualitative research design which made use of discourse analysis using the critical theory of expressivism as the main guide. In acquiring the data of the study, the art of historiography is used such as autobiographical and/or biographical notes, sources documents, and web information. Specifically, life histories and biographical methods served as the basis of the analysis. In executing the methods involved in this study, it is observed that the poem shows a naturalist implicatures, expressing Frost's strong feelings and emotions being devoid of free will and a narrow bit of confusions and ambiguities with his indecisions in life.

Tantri Sundari

Robert frost is one of the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious American poets of 20th century. He won four Pulitzer prizes during his life time. He gained lot of popularity not only in England but also in whole Europe. His poetry dealt with elements of nature, personal and social aspect of human beings. His themes are very inspirational and innovative.The aim of this paper is to analyze Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not taken”. This analysis is helpful in understanding the basic concept of poem that presents a contrast between right and wrong choices in life.

Go Along or Get Along: A Comparative study of “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening” and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Junaid S H A H Shabir

This paper attempts to compare and analyse two magnificent poems by Robert Frost; 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' and 'The Road Not Taken'. The comparative analysis brings home the sameness and/or differences between the two poems. Spoken from the perspective of two different travelers, travelling in woods, at different points of time and space, the speakers seem to suffer an almost same kind of dilemma. Both these poems emphasize the confrontation of man with choices offered by life and temptations which lure him throughout his journey of life. The comparison has been done Thematically, Structurally, Figuratively, Literarily and poetically so to bring forth the relationship between the two poems by the same author.

Luke Judkins

This critical essay argues that Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken" is not a poem about taking a road less traveled but about regret and the state of the human psyche during the process of decision. Frost argues against indecisiveness and regret via the speaker's battle to decide between two virtually identical roads-neither one more or less traveled than the other. Readers should look beyond the last two lines of Frost's poem in order to develop a structured perspective concerning Frost's point. Historical contextualization provides readers with a sense of the biographical elements of the poem, written in 1916 and inspired by his friend Edward Thomas. Thomas was indecisive about which path to take when they both proceeded into nature for a walk, giving Frost a beginning for the speaker in the poem. Close analysis of each stanza, reveals that Frost's "The Road Not Taken" has psychological implications of regret and uncertainty regarding ...

Tammara Or Slilat

Analysis and interpretation of the poem.

Bill Benzon

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a ring composition three levels deep: 1 2 Ω 2’ 1’. The central section consists of lines 9 through 12 cuts across the boundary between the second (ll. 6-10) and third (ll. 11-14) stanzas. There is a subtle shift in tense in line 16 in which the poet in effect travels back into the past, at the moment of decision captured in the poem, so that he can anticipate the present moment in which the poem unfolds. Thus the end of the poem rejoins the beginning, not merely through the repetition of a line, but through a trick in time.

Open Access Publishing Group

This paper attempts to analyse the Lexical Choices in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken poem from the perspectives of stylistics. Stylistics is the study of style of language in literature. It seeks to account for the interpretative effects of a text through close study of its linguistic detail, such as syntactic structuring, semantic deviation, deixis, modality, etc. A piece of work cannot be properly understood without a thorough knowledge of the language, which is its medium of expression. Each register has its own characteristics style with certain lexical and grammatical choices. Poets, particularly modern ones, have successfully freed themselves from constraints of what is so called ‚poetic language (Sharma, 2009: 31). In this write up, the value of the game considers the lexical choices in the poem " The Road Not Taken‛ by Robert Frost in the following categories: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, lexical categories such as synonymy, antagonymy, contradiction and their significance or effects in the poem.

Francis Tatel

Stylistic analysis of Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' using cognitive metaphor approach and biographical criticism.

Ashik Istiak

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the road not taken reflection essay

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”: Regret in the Human Psyche - A Critical Essay

  • Luke Judkins

the road not taken reflection essay

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  1. Reflection The Road Not Taken Assignment And Reflective Essay Example

    The poem "Road Not Take;" by Robert Frost explores decision making as part of a complex nature of human race involving contradictory emotions of fear for unknown future, regret for the possible wrong choice and acceptance and pride in defining an individual. The lack of foresight and fear for choosing wrongly result the hesitance in making ...

  2. Analysis of "The Road Not Taken": [Essay Example], 621 words

    Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is one of the most well-known and widely studied poems in American literature. Written in 1916, the poem explores the theme of decision-making and the consequences of the choices we make in life. Through a careful analysis of the poem's language, structure, and themes, we can gain a deeper understanding ...

  3. The Road Not Taken Poem Summary and Analysis

    Powered by LitCharts content and AI. Written in 1915 in England, "The Road Not Taken" is one of Robert Frost's—and the world's—most well-known poems. Although commonly interpreted as a celebration of rugged individualism, the poem actually contains multiple different meanings. The speaker in the poem, faced with a choice between two roads ...

  4. The Road Not Taken

    In "The Road Not Taken", the poet uses a reflective tone to address the significance of the choices one makes in life. In this poem, Symbolism is the tool used to bring about this reflection. The "road" referred to by the speaker is the most prominent symbol in the poem. In this case, the road refers to a path in life.

  5. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (Poem + Analysis)

    Summary. 'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost ( Bio | Poems) describes how the speaker struggles to choose between two roads diverging in the yellowish woods on an autumn morning. In the poem, the individual arrives at a critical juncture in his life, arriving at crossroads at last near "a yellow wood.".

  6. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

    The poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost expresses the uncertainty and finality of choice. The poem is rich with symbolism, which is open for interpretation of the reader. The aim of this essay is to evaluate this poem through poetic analysis, and reveal its message. We will write a custom essay on your topic. 809 writers online.

  7. Reflection on The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

    Perhaps one of the most well-known poems in modern America is a work by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. This poem consists of four stanzas that depict the story of the narrator traveling through the woods early in the morning and coming upon a fork in the path, where he milled about for a while before deciding upon one of the two paths ...

  8. Robert Frost: "The Road Not Taken"

    Robert Frost wrote " The Road Not Taken " as a joke for a friend, the poet Edward Thomas. When they went walking together, Thomas was chronically indecisive about which road they ought to take and—in retrospect—often lamented that they should, in fact, have taken the other one. Soon after writing the poem in 1915, Frost griped to Thomas ...

  9. The Road Not Taken

    For champions of the Other Frost (and for Frost himself), "The Road Not Taken" is a dark joke at the expense of a self-deluding speaker—as Orr articulates the position: "The poem isn't a salute to can-do individualism; it's a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.".

  10. The Road Not Taken Summary and Literary Analysis

    The Road Not Taken Literary Analysis. "The Road Not Taken" is a poem about the struggles of the speaker to decide which one of the two roads he must choose. It has both literal and metaphorical meanings. The two roads symbolize two directions in life to follow.

  11. The Main Message in Robert Frost's The Road not Taken

    'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost is a poem about the difficult and stressful choices in life. The poem was written in 1915 during World War One. The... read full [Essay Sample] for free ... The Road Not Taken is a reflection of how you shouldn't regret the difficult decisions you will make in life, and how you should be happy about your ...

  12. Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken: Meaning and Analysis

    Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken" Poem. "The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem, meaning it is a poem that tells a story. It was written in 1915 as a joke for Frost's friend, Edward Thomas. Frost and Thomas were fond of hiking together, and Thomas often had trouble making up his mind which trail they should follow.

  13. Analysis of the Poem 'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost

    Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken': Meaning and Analysis. 'The Road Not Taken' is an ambiguous poem that allows the reader to think about choices in life, whether to go with the mainstream or go it alone. If life is a journey, this poem highlights those times in life when a decision has to be made. Which way will you go? The ambiguity springs ...

  14. The Road not Taken Poem Analysis

    The Road not Taken Poem Analysis. "The Road not taken is a poem written in 1916 by Robert Frost and was the first poem of the collection Mountain interval. The poem is the story of a traveler, who is located into the intersection of two diverged roads and must choose one to continue his way, as he hesitates to take one or other to finally ...

  15. 58 The Road Not Taken Essay Topics & Examples

    58 The Road Not Taken Essay Topics & Examples. Updated: Mar 1st, 2024. 5 min. With good The Road Not Taken essay questions and topics, you won't have problems with exploring the poem's themes and symbolism. Our experts have provided some titles and paper examples for you to check.

  16. The Road Not Taken' Reflection Essay

    Pages: 2. This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples. Cite this essay. Download. The Road Not Taken by Frost, this title implies the loss risk of human life. The Road that the speaker didn't take, is quite something within the textual content of ...

  17. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost: Analysis

    Table of Contents. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, originally published in 1916, was part of his collection Mountain Interval. The poem explores the theme of choices and their lasting consequences. Frost presents a speaker at a literal fork in the road, faced with a decision between two seemingly equal paths.

  18. Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken": Regret in the Human Psyche

    - This expressive critical study is an effort to bring in light new interpretation of Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" as a reflection of his indecisiveness in life. Specifically, it aims at examining Frost's inner being, emphasizing his own self and experiences in the poem or text. ... A Critical Essay Robert Frost's "The Road Not ...

  19. Reflection Of The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost

    Reflection Of The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost. "The Road Not Taken", written by Robert Frost in 1916, is a poem set in the vast confines of nature like many of other Frost's works. He wrote about coming to a crossroads decision and picking the one less traveled. One theme of the poem is that it is important to take your own path in life.

  20. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

    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.

  21. Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken": Regret in the Human Psyche

    This critical essay argues that Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken" is not a poem about taking a road less traveled but about regret and the state of the human psyche during the process of decision. Frost argues against indecisiveness and regret via the speaker's battle to decidebetween two virtually identical roads—neither one more or less traveled than the other.

  22. The Road Not Taken

    Share Cite. Here's one possible thesis statement: Frost shows, in his poem "The Road Not Taken," that there is no road less traveled, that it is ultimately impossible to make a totally unique ...

  23. Reflective Essay: The Road Not Taken

    This essay is a reflective account on my experience within the introductory period of my practice when caring for a patient. The essay will give the definition of reflection. This reflective essay will help me demonstrate how my experience in practice has helped me achieve one of the learning outcomes in my learning plan, (appendix 1).