person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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Are any of the words in "The Road Not Taken" used in an unfamiliar or unexpected way?

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Here are some words in "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost that are used in an unexpected way for a modern audience:

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" : The phrase "yellow wood" is figurative. If taken literally, it would mean wood that itself was yellow. However, by using this imagery, the unexpected phrasing instead calls to mind a forest in autumn, where the leaves and light have been turned golden by the season. 

"Though as for that the passing there" : This is an interesting use in that Frost uses a gerund, or a verb form of a word used as a noun, to refer to other travelers on the path. Instead of explaining that other people had used both paths, he makes the use of the paths a state of being that seems more like a natural event than caused by people. 

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In The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost the narrator reveals his confusion in the contradictory expression of his feelings. The poem may be about one occasion when making a choice can change a life (or perhaps not, such is the ambiguity of the poem), but it also represents far more than an isolated episode and reveals the effects of choice on life's journey as a whole. Frost wants the reader to recognize that not all decisions should be considered equally and any attempt to do so results in a kind of uncertainty such as the narrator must now face as he tries to persuade himself that his decision has "made all the difference." Based on the rest of the poem and how similar the paths are, being "really about the same," this is unlikely. This makes the context very important in understanding Frost's intentions. 

Frost talks about being "one traveler" and having the capacity to experience both choices which would require a far more adventurous spirit than this narrator possesses. Out of context, this could be the beginning of a journey in which a traveler relishes the opportunities that being in a position to make a choice brings. However, in the context of the poem, and for the narrator, the choice causes a dilemma and is not actually appreciated. It only creates stress and a mood of disappointment because the narrator does not know what he might be missing and it is unlikely that he will ever know. This reveals the personal aspects of this poem and introduces a satirical edge which may be overlooked by a reader who wants to use the poem for inspiration, hoping that his or her decisions will also make a "difference."

The difference that it has made can also be interpreted independently and unexpectedly to reveal that this decision is not about how the decision has changed the narrator's life but how it has changed his outlook and perhaps prevented him from making the most of his choice, choosing rather to dwell on missed opportunities ( as he "doubted" the effects of his choice anyway). The narrator's mention that he "took the one less traveled by" is also more about his attempts to convince himself that he made the right decision. As the words themselves are not particularly poetic, Frost leaves it to the reader to put it into his own context and use these words (the same, traveler, all the difference, less traveled and doubted) and interpret them to suit his own individual circumstances.

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