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Explain the meaning of "trodden black" in "The Road Not Taken".

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nidhitiwari | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 1, 2010 at 11:37 PM via web

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Explain the meaning of "trodden black" in "The Road Not Taken".

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 11:44 PM (Answer #1)

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This line from the poem just refers to leaves that have been stepped on to the point where they are black instead of the color they were when they fell off the tree.

The word "tread" means (one of its meanings) "to step on."  So you can tread on the leaves as you walk along.  If you have stepped on the leaf, we can say you have trodden on it.

So the speaker is saying (at this point) that that road has not been walked on.  The leaves have not been stepped on so they have not turned black from being crushed or ground into the dirt or anything.

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juliefeng | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 30, 2014 at 5:46 PM (Answer #3)

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The entirety of the line you are referring to in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken is "In leaves no step had trodden black." 

This line is an apt and pithy description of the road the speaker is taking. The speaker of the poem has come across two diverging paths in a forest area. He wonders which path he should take, and he is sorry he cannot split himself in two so he can travel through both. Both have been well-traveled, and he can tell from the evidence of the "trodden black." It refers to the leaves on the ground, which have been stepped on by many people. The dirt on their shoes and the slow decomposition of the leaves have turned them darker. However, the speaker decides to choose the path that ends up being "less traveled," which means less people have walked through it. He wants to come back and choose the other path the next time, so he will have experienced both, but a part of him doubts that his future travels will bring him back to this particular place. 

The blackness of the leaves also contrasts with the initial "yellow" color that Frost invokes in the beginning line. The wood he is traveling through is described as "yellow." Because these are the only two colors mentioned directly in the poem, they stand out as an interesting juxtaposition. Frost conjures yellow, a bright and sunny color that seems to bring an image of a beautiful Autumn day. Then he conjures black, dark and harsh against the yellowness of the wood's canopy. The intense variation lends to the feeling of the poem: a bit lonely, bittersweet, and nostalgic. It seems to capture the complex feelings of limited decision making, wanderlust, adventure, and the metaphor of the traveler's dilemma. 

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 11:59 PM (Answer #2)

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This phrase from Robert Frost's famous poem, "The Road Not Taken," is actually one of the more straightforward lines from the text. When Frost, the narrator, comes upon the two roads, he sees that both have been travelled rarely in recent days. Both are equally covered in leaves "no step had trodden black." Neither road has been used recently; had they been, the footprints would have disturbed the leaves and the grass beneath, leaving the blackened soil visible. ("Trodden"  being a form of the verb "tred," or to walk.)

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