What does Rudyard Kipling's 'If' and Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' have in common in terms of communicating messages about life?
What specific techniques have been used to communicate these messages?
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Both poems concern life's choices. Yet, Kipling and Frost demonstrate very different approaches to this topic. Kipling's speaker is clearly a father addressing his son, and giving advice on how to live his life. He cautions his son to maintain his integrity in the midst of the world's evils, its vicissitudes in fortune, and the fickleness of public opinion. He is encouraging his son to choose his responses wisely, cautiously, and nobly.
Frost's speaker is much more subtle, much more ironic. His poem is about choices too, but unlike Kipling's father, Frost's speaker does not indicate a preferred choice of action. His speaker comes across a fork in the road. He can take either path because they are about equally worn and equally fair. There is no way of knowing which path is the better one to take, and also no way of knowing even in retrospect which would have been the better choice. He only knows that his choice made a difference--he does not know what kind of difference his choice made. His sigh at the end of the poem could be one of contentment or regret. Frost ends the poem in ambiguity. The speaker's claim at the end that he took the road less travelled by is unsubstantiated by the actual description of the choice presented earlier in the poem, in which the speaker declares three times that the paths were equal. So, the reader must conclude that the speaker "ages and ages hence" is misrepresenting the choice he made, that his boast that he took the "less traveled road" is a vain one.
Technically, both poets use an alternating rhyme scheme and four stanzas. Both poets begin lines with a repeating word: Kipling uses "if" while Frost uses "and."
However, Kipling's poem is inspirational; Frost's poem is realistic.
Both poems serve as admonitions about life in general. In Kipling's "If," he lists a set of terms or conditions that must be met in order to hold one's head up and live life to the fullest when the end arrives.
In Frost's "Road Not Taken," the message is one of choices: Take the road less travelled by and have unexpected and unusual experiences, or simply follow the beaten path and lead a quiet, stereotypical life of average proportions. Frost tells us he "took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference," leading us to conclude the the less-travelled road is more rewarding.
Neither poem is particularly preachy, but the advisory effect of each is achieved through meter, figurative language, and an array of other poetic tools. Each is effective in reaching its audience, as both poems are studied in modern classrooms despite their age. Hence, each message could be considered timeless.
Both poems argue strongly that the most fulfilling approach to life is to follow your own star boldly; go with your instincts and trust your choices, even if they may seem unpopular or odd to the majority. If you are true to yourself and your beliefs, you can overcome many obstacles.
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