How do you think the road the poet himself took "made all the difference," considering Frost's life? Background information: Robert Frost was born in California but grew up in Massachusetts, part of the region in the northeastern U.S.A. known as New England. After he finished school, he took on all kinds of jobs but he always knew he wanted to be a poet. Although he spent two years at Harvard University, he left his studies and became a farmer to support his family. Alongside his farming activities he also wrote poetry and taught at various schools, colleges and universities throughout his career. In his poetry he often used the rural settings he lived in to present his social and philosophical ideas.
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It sounds like your assignment is for you to provide your opinion in answer to these questions. Think about the background information you have and how it is reflected in the story presented in the poem.
Frost spent time at Harvard, his father's alma mater, but did not obtain any degree. He attempted various types of work, including teaching and writing poetry for a local newspaper, in addition to farming. These experiments with various occupations might relate to the "two roads" that "diverged in a yellow wood" - different directions that his working life could have taken him.
With the reception his poetry began receiving while he was in England, Frost's direction for his life was decided and confirmed - "I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." He may have wondered how his life would have been different if he had followed a different line of employment, but he recognized that his pathway was established. "Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back."
New York Times poetry columnist David Orr has called Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" the most misread poem in America. His reasoning is that while most people think that Frost is promoting individualism, he is actually commenting on how people practice self-deception when they seek to "go their own way."
Frost acknowledges in the poem that there were two paths set before him—perhaps he was referring to his potential futures as an Ivy League intellectual or a farmer. Both, he says were "worn really about the same" and "that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black." He chose to become a farmer, and that choice brought him what likely would have been a very different life than if he had chosen to remain at Harvard.
It is likely that he questioned his decision at some point in his life. "The Road Not Taken" seems to imply he coped with that doubt by deceiving himself and others, claiming that the road he took was the one "less-traveled by," when really it had been traveled just as much as the one he chose not to take. That self-deception is what "made all the difference."
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