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What is the theme and topic of the poem, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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x0daniela | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 10, 2010 at 7:40 PM via web

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What is the theme and topic of the poem, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2010 at 8:39 PM (Answer #1)

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One way to tackle this poem is to think about your own life and consider a choice that you made that marked a real turning point in your life and the way it was going. It might have been something simple or something big, for example if could have been trying out for a sports team, standing up for a friend or a job choice. However, now, because of that choice, your life has gone in a completely different direction as a result. Go back to the moment when you made the choice, and imagine that you made a different one instead. How would your life be different now? What would you be doing?

This poem is symbolically about these kind of decisions, as the persona of the poem takes a walk in a wood and is confronted with this kind of choice:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both...

This poet has to make such a decision, chooses one, with the intention of going back and taking the other, however he admits that:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

This choice therefore captures the theme of the poem which could be said to be contradictions. A particular choice you once made might have improved your life in some ways but made it worse in others. Was it a good choice or a bad one? It was both - and it was neither. Yet the last stanza makes it clear that this relatively simple choice is one that the persona knows will haunt him in his later life as he thinks what his life would be like if he had taken the other path:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

In this poem therefore the roads and the choice that the poet needs to make stand as symbols for the choices we need to make in life. The last line of the poem recognises how even the simplest of choices can have a massive impact on the course of our lives, and the last stanza makes it clear the way that these life choices can haunt us as we consider what would have happened if we had taken another path.

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penemra | Student, Grade 9 | Valedictorian

Posted June 8, 2011 at 1:44 PM (Answer #2)

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The theme of this poem is the direction you take in life:
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference’.

The theme of this poem is the poet’s inner conflict in dealing with difference:
‘sorry I could not travel both’.

The poem shows how difficult it is to make a choice:
‘sorry I could not travel both and be one traveller’.
The theme is that people would like to avoid decisions.

The theme of this poem is that people don’t like to miss out on possibilities:
‘I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence’.

The theme of this poem is indecision:
‘Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same’.

The poet shows that human beings are never satisfied:
‘sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller’.

The poet shows his tendency to change his mind:
‘Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back’.

The poet values a fresh or individual approach:
‘having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear’.

The poet urges that people should be individuals and not follow the majority:
‘I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference’.

The poet shows that humans cannot fulfil their intentions:
‘I doubted if I should ever come back’.
Humans cannot control their destinies.

 

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