Critically appreciate the poem "The Road Not Taken."

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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem is about choices.  "Two roads diverge in a yellow wood"--the speaker has to make a choice between two paths that seem to be equal.  He tells us three times in the poem that the paths are about the same.  In the last stanza of the poem,though, he claims that he will be recounting his choice "with a sigh."  We don't know if this is a sigh of contentment or regret.  Then he claims that he took the road "less traveled by."  This claim is only in retrospect.  At the time of the choice, the two roads seemed to be the same.

He claims that his choice made "all the difference."  Yet, he does not tell us what this difference is.  We don't know if the difference is positive or negative.  Most likely, the speaker does not know either.  All the speaker knows is that this choice led to others.  Because he cannot live in an alternate universe, he only knows that the path he took made some kind of difference in his life.

Perhaps in an attempt to make meaning of his choice, he can claim "ages and ages hence" that he took the road "less travelled by," but this is probably fantasy, an attempt to rationalize the choice he did make.

This poem appeals to many, but most likely for the wrong reasons.  Many people read this poem as a affirmation of individualism and not following conventional choices.  However, even Frost himself called this poem a "tricky" poem.  The poem does express a universal truth that even the small choices in our life can make a difference.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is a favorite of many because it appears simple in nature yet reveals its complexity as the reader ponders over its imagery and figurative language.  The extended metaphor of the road as life's journey is appealing to readers who can relate to circumstances involving decision making and choosing a life path to follow.  Frost alludes to the divergent nature of life when he says that "way leads on to way," acknowledging that one opportunity may lead to another and yet another in the future.  In the end, the reader is encouraged to take risks in life for the possible benefits that the untrodden path may bear.

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The Road Not Taken

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