Why does Robert Frost put the "woods" as a symbol of life in his poem "The Road Not Taken"?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost uses an extended metaphor.  The entire road concept represents a literal road and the figurative one signifies choices that one faces in life. 

When the person comes to a "y"  or fork in the road, the road is in the woods. It must be fall since the leaves are yellow.

Two roads diverged in  a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both...

Inferentially, the figurative meaning of the woods is that the surrounding area would symbolize the life of the man who has to make the decision.

The man stands in the woods facing the roads and thinks. "Which way do I go?" Figuratively, he means that life has presented me with two different paths to follow. 

Which one do I choose? One looks less traveled but so does the other one.  One has green grass but so does the other one.  Well, he makes a decision and sticks with it.   The narrator decides on the one on the right and apparently, good or bad (hopefully for the good) that has made a big difference in his life. Those options he list about the road would things that he would have to consider in making the right life decision. 

The narrator does hope that he will be able to come back to this same wooded area and this same fork in the road again and tavel the other path.   However, he really doubts that will happen.

In life,  a person often gets only one chance to accomplish something. A career, a marriage, a business, a decision--any of these choices could have been faced by the narrator.  There all sorts of things to consider, yet it takes courage to take a stand or make a difficult decision. Sometimes a person gets lost in those figurative woods and has choose which way to go...that is what Frost was talking about in life.

A great poem by a literary giant...probably one of the most frequently quoted in all of literature.   

Two road diverged in a yellow wood, And I--

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.


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