Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken

The sing-song rhythm of this poem was the first thing that struck me about it. I got the impression that the two roads represented two life courses, which is a serious decision with potentially serious consequences. Frost writes about how has no way of judging which road is better, but that he takes the road less traveled. He then seems to abandon all hope for informed decision and choice, when he confesses that he cannot simply explore the path he has chosen, but has apparently committed to it. He expresses this when he writes, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/ I doubted if I should ever come back”

I thought the juxtaposition of the serious subject matter that was being implied with the more playful tone made for a nice contrast that left the reader questioning Frost’s communication to the reader. I thought it was especially interesting that every line is in rhyme and rhythm except the very last one, which breaks from the normal pattern and stand out the most. This disrupts the meandering and free-spirited feeling one gets at first about life – rather, it suggests that choosing the right path is of upmost importance.

My question is: what kind of advice is Frost offering his reader in this? Especially when comparing this poem to ‘Death of the Hired Man,’ when there seems to be a tension around the kind of work people do and the expecation that they perform their allotted duties. Is Frost simply saying that people should try and be unique in their careers? Or that they should be unique in their life experiences and interactions with others? Are these one in the same, or is the differentiation important to make?

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1 Response to Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken

  1. emcd23 says:

    It’s difficult for me to accept that the message really is about individuality; sure, an emphasis is put on the phrase “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” but this line seems to contradict the rest of the poem in more than just tone. For instance, in the second stanza, the narrator tells us that one path is “just as fair” as the other, and that the passing of people on both paths had “worn them really about the same.” Then, in the third stanza, we get another emphasis on how they “equally lay” unmarked by footsteps, and the narrator seems eager, even, to come back to the other path “another day!” He’s not taking an individualistic stand when he makes the choice between them. So how, then, does the narrator come to think that he will one day be calling the path he took “the one less traveled by,” and affirming that it “made all the difference,” when he has no idea whether the other path might lead to the same destination?

    For me, since the title of the poem is “The Road Not Taken,” the message centers less on being ‘unique’ and more around a reflection on the other road. When confronted with options, sometimes there’s no rational way to choose between them; our job as individuals is simply to make the choice and then make the best of it. This actually strikes me as more in keeping with Crane’s “indifferent” view of nature then as part of the Transcendentalist view of nature as divinely symbolic.

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