How are the two roads a symbol of life? The poem ends "and that has made the difference." What was the difference? Comment.

Expert Answers
cclinn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The crossing or divergence of the two roads in the poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost appears to deal with the decisions the speaker has made about life and how s/he has led it than about life itself.

Written by a more mature speaker, who has enjoyed the sensuous beauty and wisdom gained from h/his journey,  one can glean the leisurely, relaxed, contented tone suggested by such diction as “yellow wood”, “know how way leads on to way”, “somewhere ages and ages hence” and “that has made all the difference.”  Vibrant in its almost breathless excitement and participation in living, one becomes aware of its universality and timelessness of sensuous imagery, like “..To where it bent in the undergrowth”, “…I took the other”, “I kept the first for another for another day”, “…I shall be telling this with a sigh”.

Like so many of us starting out in life, the speaker wanted both roads, but realized his limitation of "be{ing} one traveler".  In the excitement of leaving tracks on the road that "was grassy and wanted wear", the speaker both freed and limited h/herself by selecting the challenge of the direction taken and by leaving behind the possibilities of the other.  However, s/he appears satisfied with the choices as s/he looks forward to telling about “I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”

These last lines can be both inspirational and encouraging for us especially when confronted with the challenge of which is the “right” as opposed to which is easiest and/or the most popular route to take.  The poem remains upbeat in its supportive tone of the advantage of personal decision-making; for the speaker, it definitely has rendered joy and satisfaction.

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are often times in our lives that we come across choices to make.  We have to go one way or another.  That is what the two roads are referring to.  The path could be any facet of life.

The fact that the speaker of the poem chose his own route--and not one that everyone else has chosen before him--makes him different.  He's not a follower.  He's his own leader.  That is what mattered to him in the end.  He went his own way and did what he had to do in order to succeed. 

alletaylor | Student

Roads or paths are very common metaphors for life, in that they are linear and progressive, leading from one spot to another, beginning in a definite place and ending in another place some distance away. The road that forks into two possible paths is thus a symbol for a major life decision. It is a decision that does not at first seem irrevocable ("Oh, I kept the first for another day!"), but one that sets the protagonist onto a new direction in life that is unlikely to be later reversed:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

This decision, made without much thought or evidence as to which road was better,

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

has led the protagonist to some end that he now regrets "with a sigh," an outcome that might have been avoided had he made a different choice in his earlier life. Thus, when the poem concludes "And that has made all the difference," the difference is between what his life has actually become, and what it might have become if he had taken the other path.

gowolves | Student

The two roads are symbolic for the ever present choice between right and wrong which we are always faced with. Choosing right over wrong or vice versa in a single instance can drastically alter ones life.

Read the study guide:
The Road Not Taken

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