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Compare and contrast Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

The speaker of "Birches" and the speaker of "The Road Not Taken" both realize that they live in a world full of uncertainty and life choices. The final outcome cannot be seen, no matter which decision is made. Both speakers learned this lesson as young boys swinging on birches and then growing up to become adults who think about their decisions.

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On the surface, these poems seem to have quite a bit in common.  Both have a speaker who is solitary, alone in nature.  Both indicate what time of year in which they take place: "The Road Not Taken" takes place in the fall, as we learn from the narrator's description of the "yellow wood," and "Stopping by Woods" takes place in the winter, as a deep snow falls.  Both speakers have to make a choice: the speaker in "The Road Not Taken" must pick a road, now that he's reached a fork in it, and the speaker of "Stopping by Woods" must decide whether to stay in the tranquil wood or continue on to satisfy his obligations.

However, the motivations of these speakers seem completely different.  The speaker in "Stopping by Woods" is drawn by the solitude he gets to experience in the quiet woods.  He longs to remain in the woods which are "lovely, dark and deep" and full of "easy wind and downy flake."  He seems to relish the tranquility and the quiet and calming sight of "watch[ing] [the] woods fill up with snow."  He would stay, if he could.  But, he has promises, obligations perhaps, that he feels he is bound to keep and a long, long way to go before he can rest.  The speaker of "The Road Not Taken," on the other hand, has no doubt about whether or not he wants to keep moving; the question becomes, for him, which direction to go.  Then, rather than reflecting on the appeal of tranquility and solitude, this speaker imagines a future in which he paints his decision as a great deal more meaningful than it actually is.  He has said that the second road is "just as fair" as the first, and that "the passing there / Had worn them really about the same."  In other words, they have been taken just about the same number of times by people who have come before.  However, in the future, this speaker plans to tell this story, saying that he "took the [road] less traveled by" other people and that this decision "has made all the difference" in his life.  Given what he's already told us about the equality of the roads, we know this to be a untrue.  

Thus, the speaker in "Stopping by Woods" seems much more earnest: he is just a tired man appreciating the beauty of the nature around him and wishing for a break to stay and enjoy the winter scene.  The speaker in "The Road Not Taken" harbors a desire to appear courageous and unique when, really, he has only made a decision that so many others before him have also made.  

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There is a strong similarity between Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and his "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." In both poems the speaker is on a journey and comes to a stop. In both poems he indicates the season of the year, which is fall in "The Road...

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Not Taken" and early winter in "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." In both poems the speaker is all alone and seems to be having troubled feelings and emotions. Finally, in both poems the speaker (who is presumably Frost himself) has to move on because he cannot remain all alone in the woods. In "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" he moves on because he remembers he has obligations to fulfill, while in "The Road Not Taken" he moves on because he has to make a choice of one road or the other. There is very little difference in the motivations of the speakers in the two poems. The moods of both poems are very similar. The speaker seems lonely, puzzled, fascinated by the beauty of nature but forced to attend to the business of living.

Frost maintained that all writing, including poetry, should be dramatic. He makes these two poems dramatic by suggesting that the speakers both have internal conflicts. In "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" the speaker would like to stay by the woods much longer and enjoy the silence and the visual beauty. In "The Road Not Taken" the speaker would like to follow both roads but cannot do so because they "diverge" in entirely different directions.

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Compare Robert Frost's "Birches" and "The Road Not Taken."

Both "Birches" and "The Road Not Taken" are naturalist poems that deal with interactions between man and nature. More specifically, they use nature to explore man's contemplation of choices made in life. In the case of "Birches," the speaker knows the hard truth of why the birch trees are bent towards the ground, but fantasizes about how he wished it were kids swinging on the trees, and how the child learned to "subdue his father's trees by riding them down over and over again." The speaker of the poem lets the readers know that he was once one of those boys who swung on birch trees, but time and age have changed him. As he sits in the wood staring at the birch trees, the speaker dreams "of going back to be" one of those tree-swinging children. He argues, however, that "life is much like a pathless wood" and that there is no telling where our decisions may lead us. 

Frost's "The Road Not Taken" continues this idea of life being like a wood filled with uncertainty. The speaker of the poem examines both roads that lay in front of him closely, and cannot see far down either. Both paths can be seen as major life choices. We as humans can try to see where our life decisions may lead us, but we cannot see what the final outcome may be. The speaker's choice to take the path that seemed less traveled may have seemed to be the right decision, because he says that his decision "has made all the difference." The title of the poem, however, suggests that the speaker is constantly thinking about the path he didn't take and wondering what outcome he would have come to if he had taken it instead. 

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What are the differences and similarities between "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" in terms of theme and poetic devices?

The similarities between these poems are quite striking – Both take place in or near woods, both dealing with the path or road, etc.  The major difference – besides the obvious one that one traveler is on foot and one on horseback (or in a carriage?) is in the theme:  Road Not Taken (1916) refers to life choices; the traveler is going outward into the world, while Stopping by the Woods  (1923) almost certainly refers to Death, and the traveler is going home; add to this the time of year (Autumn vs. Winter), and the differences start to become more prominent than the similarities. In terms of poetic structure, Road is a five-line stanza with abaab for a rhyme scheme; Stopping is a quatrain stanza with an aaba rhyme scheme, with the last stanza aaaa, giving a finality to it.  Also it should be noted that the stanzas lock together in their rhymes, the third line of one stanza rhyming with the a-rhyme in the next stanza – again giving a sense of order and finality).  Finally, Road has an uneven foot while Stopping is iambic throughout (some critics equate it to the sound of horse’s hooves, although the horse has stopped).  Road is much more enigmatic, almost contradictory (what does “all the difference” mean – good or bad?-- and if Frost is implying that he chose a poetic style “less traveled by” it would be a hard case for him to make).  The moods of the two poems, then, are different – one reflecting on the past, the other describing a present moment.   

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In "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," how does Frost emphasize the importance of weighing and making choices? How are the two poems similar and different?

One main similarity is that in each of these poems we see introspection on the part of the narrator. In "The Road Not Taken," the narrator carefully considers each path. His consideration of each path is much more thorough and careful than most people's might be. He sees two paths that are fairly similar and there is no correct choice. Many folks would simply choose one and go on, but the narrator stops and thinks at length about which one to take and feels regret at not being able to know what is down the other path. Then, in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the narrator purposefully stops to enjoy, consider, and appreciate the woods at night during snowfall. Again, this might be something another person would pass by without much thought, but this pause shows that the narrator is thinking about the setting and how it makes him feel, just like in "The Road Not Taken." Each of these narrators takes the time to stop and appreciate nature and think about his own reactions to nature.

Another strong similarity is that each poem presents nature as a metaphor for the mysteries of life. In "The Road Not Taken," the two paths represent choices we are constantly faced with in our lives. We must choose only one and we often question if it was the correct choice. In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the narrator stops to enjoy the sight of the woods, but is also aware that his horse may find him "queer," and he doesn't want the owner of the woods to know he is watching the woods for fear he will think him strange. Nature in each case represents something mysterious, unknown, and to some degree unattainable. The path the narrator does not take is the one he does not "have," and the woods do not belong to the second narrator.

A third similarity is that both poems are told by narrators who are traveling. This travel can also represent our life's journey rather than just the journey the narrator happens to be on in the poem.

One key difference between the poems is that the narrator in each poem arrives at his decisions differently. In "The Road Not Taken" there is no clear choice, so neither one would be incorrect; however, in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the narrator can stay in the dark, cold woods all night and or continue on his journey. Clearly, he continues his journey. This is an easy and fairly clear choice for the narrator.

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