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What are the poetic devices of the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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utkdmrz | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted December 24, 2011 at 6:13 PM via web

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What are the poetic devices of the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:42 AM (Answer #1)

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There are multiple poetic devices used in Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken.

In the first line, the poet used assonance. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within a line of poetry. In the first line,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

the "o" sound is repeated in "roads" and "yellow."

In the eighth line,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

the author uses personification. Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human/non-living things. In this line, the path wanted wear. A path cannot want. Only humans can want. This qualifies as personification.

The poem as a whole is a metaphor. A metaphor is

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable.

The poet is, therefore, comparing the paths in life to the choices one must make when reaching a crossroads. The poem speaks of the actual choices in life as roads one must choose to take. Metaphorically, the roads simply represent choices in life.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 20, 2014 at 6:10 AM (Answer #2)

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Literary terms and poetic devices allow a poet or author to enhance their writing. Examples include sound devices like alliteration or onomatopoeia; the use of figurative language such as metaphor and simile when comparisons allow the reader to understand the subject matter on a broader scale and perhaps in terms the reader had not considered previously; imagery when figurative language is used to embellish the developing mental picture which the reader can appreciate; symbolism, which allows the reader to relate the poem to its real meaning rather than its literal meaning, whereupon the reader can relate it to his own circumstances; and, to reinforce the symbolism, connotation, allowing the reader to make assumptions about the subject matter. 

In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost uses several poetic devices at his disposal. Alliteration is used subtly in "wanted wear" (the repeated w sound at the beginning of the words) and improves the musical tone. The poet creates an image for the reader of the paths which "equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden." This creates a peaceful image and the use of metaphor in terms of the whole poem is not lost on the reader.

The poem is clearly intended to convey a meaning far beyond its immediate scope. The decision here is quite significant and Frost, although it is believed he was making fun of his friend's decision-making abilities, ensures that the reader understands the implications of choosing a path. "I doubted if I should ever come back," would have anyone rethinking his choice. The reader can relate to the narrator. In terms of the connotation, the road is obviously just that, a path, but the reader is led to believe that it is a career choice or life-changing decision. Being in a "wood," describing the "undergrowth," the reader can interpret this to be the narrator's confusion; not being able to see his way through the woods or, to quote another famous saying; perhaps, the narrator could not see "the wood for the trees."

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